Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Compassion counts...

... because it's not only nice, it's also necessary.

We've all been patients.  We've all experienced, hopefully, the warmth of an empathetic caregiver.  The confidence that comes from knowing that the clinician before us is actually listening to what we're saying.  And the reassurance that comes from seeing that the information is being properly recorded somewhere so that others won't need you to repeat your entire story, word for word... five times.  Put that all together, and it's the value of compassion.  Unfortunately, most of us have experienced the exact opposite too. 

See today's boston.com piece regarding The Schwartz Center survey of patients and physicians on this topic.  Here's the link.

According to the article:
Dr. Beth Lown — a Mount Auburn Hospital internist and medical director of the survey’s sponsor, the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare — said she was encouraged that most doctors thought such factors could make a difference in whether a patient lives or dies.

“I think this is a knockout,’’ she said in an interview. Some “doctors feel that medical skills and scientific knowledge are the only things that turn into good outcomes. . . . I think all patients have always wanted emotional support, but it hasn’t always been in the doctors’ lexicon.’’

The survey found that doctors and patients agree on the importance of most but not all components of compassionate care, which include showing respect, listening attentively, giving information in a way that is understandable, involving the patient in medical decisions, and treating the patient as a person and not a disease.
As we continue (and for largely good reasons) to further specialize our health care industry, we also continue to depersonalize it as well.  With more and more pockets of capabilities emerging, the gaps between those islands can grow and widen.  Systems of care which emphasize filling those gaps and ensuring the highest levels of compassion will emerge and win in this rapidly changing industry.  Expect studies such as the one cited here to continue to punctuate this point.

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