I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends - Compassion in Healthcare & Holland

Over at the Hospital Impact forum, Tony Chen has kickstarted a conversation about culture. (If you haven't signed up for the HI community yet, it's worth a look).

Nick Jacobs discusses culture and the responsibility for treating others with compassion (and accountability) eloquently on his blog, and points the proverbial finger of responsibility straight towards the managerial/executive branch.

So much of what's going on in American healthcare involves not just the supply-demand side need for greater economic incentives and market-based consumption, but also the ongoing debate about how hospitals can be businesses that put patients first - in other words, how can we make money, provide good jobs AND good care, and be compassionate in our actions, reactions, and treatments - all at the same time?

This is an old axe, but forgive me for dragging it out to grind.

As a Patient Advocate in a small community hospital working through my last year of college, I saw how integrally important compassion is to the success of care modalities. I spent, ironically, much less time talking to patients than I did mediating communications between the medical staff and families.

Here's the kicker - compassion isn't just de riguer for your patients.

As the industry places increasing focus on compassionate care at the SYSTEM level, so too must our leadership emphasize and embody compassionate communication at the INDIVIDUAL level.

If you have great patient safety and quality of care initiatives, have a wonderful research staff, turn out great docs at your AMC, but treat your employees in physical plant like crap, you're operating in a situation of cultural hypocrisy.

Managing people and processes in a healthcare setting is no piece of cake, that's for sure. And it shouldn't be...these are people's lives we're dealing with - their wellbeing.

At MCRZ here in Holland, compassionate community-based care is driving a turnaround
. Following a challenging merger 4 years ago, the proof is now in the pudding: they've instituted performance evals for docs as well as managers (360 degree feedback). *Blogger's Note: I hope to have more news to come re: MCRZ.

And guess what? When someone doesn't measure up to the level of expected compassion, when a staff member (regardless of department) doesn't perform with attention to care and quality, that person is held accountable, and may actually face termination (not just empty threats).

This afternoon (it's 3pm Saturday here now) I found that compassion in Holland doesn't just flourish in the healthcare system.

A neighbor just rung my bell and delivered a package (our cable modem thank goodness- here we come Skype/Vonage!).

She and I chatted for a few minutes; it's common here for the postal service to deliver packages to another house on the block, depending upon who's home at the time.

Then the postal service leaves you a note telling you where your package is, and when you're neighbor gets home, they bring you the package (you can alternately ring them, but it's considered polite to deliver the package in person door-to-door with thanks).

Isn't this a great example of compassion? My neighbor didn't have to deliver our package, she could certainly have waited for me to buzz her and ask for my box.

I'm almost tempted to pretend I'm not home next time I see the postal delivery person (and order a bunch of stuff online), just so I have an excuse to meet all my neighbors.

There's a better way to do that though - excuse me while I go knock on some doors and introduce myself.

It's the compassionate thing to do, after all.

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