Reframing Feedback: Focusing on Positive Aspects Improves Healthcare Culture

Reframing Feedback: Focusing on Positive Aspects Improves Healthcare Culture

A recent study conducted by researchers at Mass General Brigham suggests that healthcare organizations can enhance their work culture and promote mutual appreciation among staff members by shifting their focus from what went wrong to what went right. The study examined peer-to-peer positive feedback gathered during a mandatory mortality review process for dying patients.

The findings highlight that systematically collecting and sharing positive feedback, which emphasizes the positive aspects of care delivery, can contribute to an improved culture of teamwork, collegiality, and civility within healthcare organizations. Published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine, the study involved survey responses from various healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers, and respiratory therapists.

The positive feedback encompassed three main areas: exceptional patient and family-centered care, provider expertise and composure, and empathic peer support and effective team collaboration. The analysis revealed patterns of feedback specific to each specialty, with patient care often being the focus in medicine, neurology, hospice/palliative care, and surgery, while emergency medicine received praise for expertise and composure.

The study acknowledges some limitations, such as its narrow scope within a single healthcare system and the absence of data on adverse events, operational efficiency, or clinician well-being. However, the researchers stress the importance of examining these aspects longitudinally in diverse clinical settings.

Lead author Dr. Isaac Chua, a palliative care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, highlights how the study provides valuable qualitative data that showcase the exceptional work performed by clinicians on a daily basis. He suggests that the systematic collection and sharing of positive feedback can be a low-cost intervention to improve workplace culture based on the employees’ value system. Moreover, receiving and sharing positive feedback can help healthcare workers feel more appreciated, protecting them against burnout and attrition.

Dr. Mallika L Mendu, vice president of Clinical Operations and Care Continuum at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, emphasizes the need for healthcare organizations to learn from positive feedback provided by frontline staff. She suggests that this study lays the foundation for developing a systematic tool to share data with staff and organizational leaders, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Overall, the study highlights the potential benefits of reframing feedback within healthcare organizations, shifting the focus to positive aspects and promoting a culture of appreciation and support. By recognizing and celebrating what went right, healthcare organizations can enhance their work environment and ultimately improve patient care.

Isaac Chua et al, What Went Right? A Mixed‑Methods Study of Positive Feedback Data in a Hospital‑Wide Mortality Review Survey, Journal of General Internal Medicine (2023). DOI: 10.1007/s11606-023-08393-z

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