Does Compassion Pay, Literally?

Premier Pulse     May 2022

Belcastro_336x336By Marc Belcastro, DO, system chief medical officer, Premier Health

Will patients have better outcomes if providers and other members of their health care team deliver meaningful compassion along with excellent diagnostic and technical care? Can anyone express compassion, or is it a skill limited to only the gifted? Does compassion also help the caregiver, mitigate provider burnout, and bring joy and purpose back to medicine? There is a significant amount of data to support improved and measurable clinical outcomes when patients feel truly cared for with compassion and empathy. Anyone can speak and demonstrate caring and compassionate words and expressions during an encounter. And yes, compassion can heal the caregiver as powerfully as the patient.

In the book “Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence That Caring Makes A Difference,” Drs. Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli make a compelling case that the answers to all the questions above are "yes." Dr. Trzeciak is a physician scientist and specializes in critical care medicine.  His inspiration for this research sprang from his 12-year-old son asking for help on a homework project. Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli is a physician executive, emergency medicine physician, lawyer, and bioethicist. On a journey to improve patient experience, he was acutely aware of burnout, compassion fatigue, and depersonalization plaguing medicine. Both believed there was a significant “compassion crisis” in the delivery of health care in the United States. Being scientists, however, they wanted proof and thus embarked on their research journey.  

I was first exposed to this work in a TED Talk I discovered in 2018. As the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to the core and we begin recovery after two years of compassionate care, I invite you to take 15 minutes and listen to the talk. After listening, give yourself some space and time to contemplate the information. Ask if this would be healing for you. Thank you for your commitment to our patients. 

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