Compassion Corner: Improving Communication Between Patients and Hospital Personnel

Compassion [kuhmpash-uhn] noun
A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Compassion Corner is a new weekly series from Patient Worthy that will focus on the subject of compassion in the healthcare and rare disease space. In this series, we explore the role of compassion in this field and what it means for caregivers, patients, and others.

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Dr. Anthony Orsini is a neonatologist specializing in medical care for the newborn, specifically infants who are hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care units.

Dr. Orsini founded a communication training organization called the Orsini Way for healthcare professionals featuring a new method of communicating with patients and their families.

According to a recent article in Managed Healthcare, the Orsini Way conducted a survey asking patients to describe their visits with their doctors and nurses. Seventy-one percent of patients surveyed found interaction with their doctors lacked compassion. Seventy-three percent of patients interviewed complained of being rushed by their doctor.

Another revelation from the survey dealt with a patient’s loyalty to certain hospitals, not because of the hospital’s reputation but because the patients had developed a rapport with the doctors and nursing staff.

Deloitte, a major accounting firm, conducted a study whereby better patient experience with healthcare providers increased a hospital’s revenue.

Dr. Orsini explains that even one interaction with a doctor can have a major impact on a person’s life. That interaction may consist of a simple visit with a family or delivering tragic news to a family.

Other findings were:

  • Sixty-three percent of patients said their questions were not answered completely;
  • Forty-seven percent of patients surveyed claimed they did not have satisfactory interaction with the doctor who treated them and would not return to that emergency department or to that hospital;
  • Thirty-nine percent of patients surveyed said that they believed doctors are simply not proper communicators.

Only sixty-five percent of respondents were satisfied with the way their doctors or the ER staff communicated at their last visit. Dr. Orsini says that most patients are appreciative when they receive quality care. However, when the healthcare they receive is of poor quality their perception can be damaged permanently.

How to Convey Compassion

Dr. Orsini commented that the majority of physicians are compassionate but struggle with conveying compassion. He acknowledged that young doctors are taught to put their emotions aside. However, the results of the Deloitte survey clearly show that patients want to connect with their physicians. That they want to experience their doctor’s compassion and not be considered “just a number.”

The Orsini way training program involves techniques to improve the interaction between doctors, nurses, patients, and their families. The courses contain such topics as breaking bad news, conflict resolution, and professional burnout.

The Orsini Way’s communication training involves interactive workshops, role-playing by professional actors, and digital learning that reinforces adherence and builds positive habits. The Orsini Way program has used these methods successfully to train thousands of hospital personnel.

As Dr. Orsini illustrates, just simple changes in communication between doctors and patients have a significant impact on patient engagement.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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