Objective: A case study at the department for heart surgery of an Austrian University Hospital in 2001, examined the outcome of improved communication aimed at empowering patients to be more effective co-producers of recuperation after surgery.
Methods: Evaluated were the effects of a training program for developing communication skills of health professionals (physicians, physiotherapists, and nurses) along with a reorganization of patient information schemes. The clinical outcomes after four types of surgery (bypass, stent, artificial valve insertion and combination of these) were observed in 100 patients without (control group) and 99 with the intervention administered (intervention group). Two objective and two subjective health outcome parameters were selected for analysis: care level adjusted length of stay in hospital, frequency of post-surgery complications, subjective health, subjective satisfaction with care received. Self-administered breathing exercises were measured as an intermediary outcome parameter.
Results: In the intervention group length of hospital stay was shorter (by 1 day), incidence of post-surgery tachyarrhythmia was reduced (by 15%), transfer to less intensive care levels was faster and patient ratings for communicative quality of care by doctors and nurses were improved.
Conclusion: Professional communication aimed at empowering patients to act as co producers can indeed have an effect on clinical outcome.
Practice implications: Staff training and reorganization of communication schemes can be an effective intervention in hospital care.