The Return on Healthcare Empathy


Blog by Joe Babaian

It doesn’t take an instant more, or cost a penny more, to be empathetic than it does to be indifferent.” – Brian Lee.

Last Friday, I was fortunate to spend some time with my #hcldr partner and friend Colin @colin_hung at an impromptu dinner here in Houston! Fortunately, Colin was flying from San Antonio to D.C. and decided Houston was a great pit stop. Colin joined me and #hcldrs Bonnie Sheeren @bonnieshecolineren plus Liz Kelly @Elizabe85727641 for a wonderful dinner and chat! The simple care and empathy during that conversation stood out to me – without “a penny more” we kindly discussed serval healthcare issues, including contentious ones, with ideas for progress and without stress. Does this mean we all agreed on everything? I hope not! An echo chamber certainly is not the solution to the problems and opportunities we now face in healthcare, I’m sure you agree!

With this in mind, let’s think about #empathy and its value – both in terms of its subjective value and its return on (emotional) investment. The quote I selected for the lede of the blog makes the argument that to employ empathy costs nothing more and the alternative is indifference. Having had the privilege to interact and work with so many great people in healthcare, I propose that empathy does have a varying emotional cost for most. This is not a negative, but an observation. The “cost” is the one of self-reflection that requires one to choose to dig deep and find your own emotional connection to the situation at hand. We’d be doing a disservice to consider this “free” – indeed, the effort is proportional to the outcome, countering indifference.

We can readily see that this cost is something that doesn’t drain us but allows us to act with purpose, wherever we find ourselves in healthcare. The “cost” is always returned with interest if we let allow it. Whether we interact within the business-to-business side of healthcare or the vast patient-care arena, we can readily see the value of empathy in action. In both cases, employing empathy allows for deeper, more functional and caring interactions. These aspects, when married together, create progress and care regardless if we are talking the business of healthcare or the purely human side. Plus, where’s the line in any case?

Empathy in action, along with our growing emotional intelligence (EQ) that gives us the tools needed to maintain empathy in different situations, is simply the healthy way for us to be a real and dynamic part of healthcare.

Let’s join the collective #hcldr community to examine the return on empathy (ROE)!

Please join us Tuesday, November 07, 2017, at 8:30 pm ET (for your local time click here) as we discuss the following topics:

  • T1: How does employing empathy “cost” you anything in relation to the benefits? Examples?
  • T2: How and should everyone in healthcare be working toward greater empathy? Can it and #EQ be taught?
  • T3: How do we handle situations in healthcare where empathy seems to interfere with efficient interactions? Is this possible?
  • T4: What value do you place on empathy and EQ personally and/or organizationally? Critical for success or not?

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  1. Malissa O'Rourke Miot · · Reply

    Empathy is a necessity in today’s healthcare environment. Empowering clinicians to in spite of all the demands and challenges they face, to empathize with patients, families and colleagues helps to create a more balanced and genuine partnership in greater care and better outcomes. The benefits are better patient care, and greater understanding.

    Empathy is innate in many, but not all in the healthcare space. Volunteering in the facility and connecting with patients can aid in developing a greater sense of empathy. Remembering that you may be encountering a patient and family on there very worst day helps to connect the humanity in it all. Thinking how would it feel if this was my family member dealing with this issue?

    There needs to be a balance between efficiency and empathy and often times sharing empathy or acting in an empathetic manner, can help make one more efficient. For instance, It could help a nurse who takes the time with the patient upfront to prevent future call bell rings later. Ultimately it’s the connection between us and understanding each other that helps to develop empathy in a genuine and authentic way to guide us to better patient care and better outcomes that can impact health care in the long run.

  2. […] the last few weeks of 2017 alone, we have covered topics like Empathy, Connecting for Health w/guest host Poonam Khanna, Healthcare Communication, #AI (w/guest host […]

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