The link between compassionate care and patient satisfaction

Healthcare organizations that show a commitment to compassion enjoy a better bottom line as well as increased patient and caregiver satisfaction, according to a whitepaper from the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare. 

The report is based on interviews with CEOs and senior leaders at 35 U.S. hospitals chosen for their high levels of compassionate care, which the Schwartz Center defined as "recognizing the concerns, distress and suffering of patients and their families and taking action to relieve them." Health systems that take this approach experience a lower staff turnover due to greater job satisfaction, greater patient loyalty, lower rates of readmissions, better health outcomes, fewer medical errors and fewer costly procedures, according to the whitepaper.

Previous research has indicated further benefits of compassionate care, including lowering blood pressure, reducing perception of pain in patients and even shortening the length of the common cold. Indeed, as Lloyd H. Dean, president and CEO of California-based Dignity Health, put it: "Compassion and kindness aren't expensive, but the yield is priceless."

Hospitals that feature compassionate care also share some of the following characteristics, according to the whitepaper:

They make their employees a priority. Physician burnout is on the rise and pressure to show compassion may actually increase emotional exhaustion in nurses, FierceHealthcare previously reported. To combat this, some successful caregiver support initiatives include mindfulness training programs, expressive therapy centers and weekly wellness conferences, the whitepaper states.

They involve patients and their families. Family-centered medical rounds, 24/7 visiting hours and executive decision-making teams that include patients and their families are effective strategies, the whitepaper states.

They emphasize compassion in hiring and training. While one hospital employs a talent-management agency to "hire for attitude," another holds 150 workshops a year to train frontline staff on empathy.

They have a culture of experimentation and compassion. To achieve this, senior management support is essential, since a willingness to try new initiatives involves risk," the report states. "Successful institutions encourage new ideas at all levels."

They coordinate care. One particularly successful initiative that several hospitals shared was shift-to-shift reporting at the bedside, which allows clinicians to keep each other, as well as the patients and their families, up to speed.

They embrace transparency. The use of Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys (HCAHPS) gives hospitals not only the opportunity to compete with one another to improve the patient experience, but also allows institutions to target internal improvements, according to the report.

They keep it simple. Improving compassionate care can be as simple as asking nurses to spend more time at patients' bedside or changing food service protocols, the whitepaper noted.

To learn more:
- check out the whitepaper (.pdf)