Compassion and healthcare: can they co-exist?

If given a choice between two physicians, where both have similar educational background and practice exposure, a patient is more likely to choose the specialist based on character traits depending on how the patient wants to feel. When we think of people in healthcare, we usually think of people full of compassion, kindness, and patience.

“When given a choice, how do people decide which physician to select? Although significant research has demonstrated that how people actually feel (their “actual affect”) influences their health care preferences, how people ideally want to feel (their “ideal affect”) may play an even more significant role.” 

Compassion and healthcare

Whether you want to see a healthcare professional for preventive care, or treatment for an ailment, feeling compassion from your health care professional defines your experience. The bond with the clinician is very crucial for your healthcare, as your future decisions might be based on the experience you are receiving today.

Though the majority of the clinicians are empathetic, compassionate, and willing to help their patients, sometimes, due to time constraints or communication problems, they are not able to express it. These bottlenecks can make the patient feel dehumanized, unvalued, and being looked upon just as a case file.

Expressing your compassion and providing comfort to a patient at the time of need is crucial for a healthy doctor-patient relationship. With the onset of any disease and illness, a patient is going through many physical changes and emotional turmoil, which he may or may not express fully due to lack of knowledge, denial, self-doubt, or social or economic factors. He needs a professional to listen and understand him and respect his perspective while compassionately providing medical advice.

The trouble in becoming an expert is that you sometimes try to find technical solutions to a human problem“.

Dr. Robin Youngson, co-founder of Hearts in Healthcare

How can you show compassion?

The three T’s of compassion


-Talk and listen: Healthcare should be a two-way communication street.

-Time: The patient should not feel rushed

-Touch:  The power of touch is a very important factor in determining how the patient feels at the end of the session with the physician.

I think it’s essential to find a doctor interested in serving their patients because it means they will be more likely to take preventative measures to benefit your health and overall well-being. 

Benefits of Compassionate care

  • It results in lower metabolic complications in kidney patients.
  • is a significant component in an effective placebo treatment
  • Patients who receive a visit by an anaesthetist about pre-operation consultation are more likely to be calm on the day of operation.
  • It lowers annual medical charges Patient-centred care is associated with decreased utilization of health care services and lower total annual charges. 
  • Better immunization. When patients perceive clinicians as empathetic, rating them ‘perfect’ on the CARE tool, the common cold’s severity and duration significantly change.
  • Lower PTSD symptoms. Healthcare provider compassion is associated with lower PTSD symptoms among patients with life-threatening medical emergencies
  • Improved quality of life. Studies have demonstrated an association between a better patient experience (as measured by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS] patient experience star ratings) and higher quality of care in hospitals.

Though each patient has a different requirement for compassion, we can do our best to provide them with the same compassion as we would want for ourselves.

Compassion without empathy

As with any other emotion, compassion is can also be a two-way street. The positive effects of compassion are gratification in providing good care and comfort. Still, if empathy is not combined with compassion, the negative magnitudes can also upshot burnout and compassion fatigue. Thus, one should try to take care of their own mental health as well.