Rx for Better Health Care: Kindness and Compassion

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Rx for Better Health Care: Kindness and Compassion
Rx for Better Health Care: Kindness and Compassion

(HealthDay News) -- Various studies suggest that when health care workers approach patients with compassion, patients often heal faster, have less pain, and anxiety, and even bounce back faster from common colds. These findings were presented earlier this month at the Compassion and Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

"When health care is delivered with kindness and compassion, it has a significantly greater effect than when it is given in a dispassionate fashion that assumes that the human connection has no benefit," James Doty, M.D., founder and director of the Stanford University School of Medicine's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, told HealthDay. While medicine holds the power to cure, he said, how it is delivered can make a huge difference -- not just for patients but for health care providers, too.

In a literature review, Doty found research showing that compassionate treatment helped not only to reduce pain and anxiety but it was also tied to lower blood pressure, shorter hospital stays, and even reduced the severity and length of the common cold. Improved cooperation may be one reason: The research showed that when patients viewed a health care provider as compassionate, that boosted the odds that the patient would follow a doctor's recommendations. Staff can also help a patient feel cared for when they avoid the impression that they are rushed. Doty said health care workers also tended to feel more engaged and useful in this type of caring environment.

Displaying compassionate care is simple, Doty said. For example, "those who practice this [know to] lean toward the patient," he said, sending the patient the message that their doctor or other provider is interested. "We know you can express concern by simple touch."

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