As the US health care system undergoes restructuring and pressure to reduce costs intensifies, patients worry that they will receive less compassionate care. So do health care providers. Our survey of 800 recently hospitalized patients and 510 physicians found broad agreement that compassionate care is “very important” to successful medical treatment. However, only 53 percent of patients and 58 percent of physicians said that the health care system generally provides compassionate care. Given strong evidence that such care improves health outcomes and patients’ care experiences, we recommend that national quality standards include measures of compassionate care; that such care be a priority for comparative effectiveness research to determine which aspects have the most influence on patients’ care experiences, health outcomes, and perceptions of health-related quality of life; and that payers reward the provision of such care. We also recommend the development of systematic approaches to help health care professionals improve the skills required for compassionate care.
Health Affairs, 32(7):1299-1305 – 2011