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Patients Favor Compassion, Clinician Empathy Over Low Doc Costs

Eighty-five percent of patients said they would prefer compassion and clinician empathy from their doctors over lower healthcare costs.

compassion clinician empathy

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Patients would overwhelmingly select a doctor who displays compassion and clinician empathy over one who is less expensive, according to a recent survey from HealthTap obtained via email.

The survey, which questioned both patients and providers about the elements most important when ranking doctors, showed that 85 percent of patients value compassion in healthcare. Another 85 percent of patients said that doctors who are knowledgeable deserve high rankings.

Patients gave less value to doctors who charge lower prices, the survey found. Thirty-one percent of patients said that low cost was of value when selecting a provider. Forty-eight percent of patient respondents said that short wait times were important to them.

Doctors reflected similar values in a separate leg of the survey, HealthTap reported. Ninety-one percent of providers said that clinician compassion and empathy were very important in healthcare, and 86 percent of doctors said the same of clinician expertise and knowledge.

Most doctors agreed that being compassionate helped to enhance patient care, the survey showed. Ninety-four percent of clinician respondents said that being compassionate was key to ensuring patients followed doctor advice and improves patient health outcomes.

Far fewer doctors favored low cast and wait times compared with patient responses. Sixteen percent of clinician respondents said low cost was important to them, and 28 percent said short wait times were important.

These survey results highlight the importance of bringing humanity to healthcare, according to HealthTap founder and CEO Ron Gutman. The medical industry is becoming increasingly technology-centric, with many healthcare organizations working to integrate new tools into their patient engagement and clinical care repertoires.

But maintaining a hint of the human touch will continue to be important, Gutman said.

“‘Compassion’ isn’t a word that you hear very often in Silicon Valley, but this survey proves that it’s the most important principle in healthcare,” Gutman said in a statement. “The greater the role that technology and artificial intelligence play in healthcare, the greater the responsibility that we and other leading technologists have to build machines that value compassion just as much as doctors and patients do.”

Research has suggested that too much technology during the patient encounter is not a good thing. Although certain tools such as EHRs and mHealth technologies can help streamline healthcare, making it more efficient, and even make medicine safer, providers need to judiciously integrate tools into clinical care.

While some of these efforts will center on tools with a patient-centered design, providers will also need to augment their care delivery to cater to patient satisfaction, as well.

A 2015 report published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that patients experiencing low-computer-use appointments report higher satisfaction than those experiencing high-computer-use appointments.

The researchers recommended providers develop more patient-centric habits when using these tools. For example, establishing a connection with the patient prior to even using the computer or EHR is key. Providers can also share the EHR screen with the patient and explain the purpose of the technology in the care encounter.

Creating context around health IT use will allow the patient to recognize the utility of technology and therefore be more accepting of these tools.

Healthcare organizations are beginning to integrate patient-centered technology use programs into their onboarding processes. One such program that the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine armed new clinicians with strategies to help raise patient satisfaction scores.

Following the training courses, patient-centered EHR use efficacy increased from 3.1 to 3.9 stars out of five.

The medical school integrated these training courses into their pre-existing EHR onboarding. The new patient-centered module only added 20 minutes onto the entire course, making it a viable option for supporting the goal of patient centricity.

“We found partnering with EHR trainers who deliver required onboarding training is a novel, timely, and effective method to facilitate training on patient-centered EHR communication strategies across a variety of residency and post-residency training programs,” the researchers concluded. “Similar training can be easily replicated at other institutions and may help ground trainees in best practices and contribute to cultivating a culture of high-quality patient care and meaningful, humanistic patient-centered EHR use.”

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