Compassionate Care


We may think we're delivering compassionate care, but the public feels otherwise.

Researchers at the The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston surveyed 800 hospitalized patients and 510 physicians and found broad agreement that compassionate care is considered very important to successful medical treatment. However, only 53% of the patients and 58% of the physicians indicated that they felt that compassionate care is being provided to patients. The researchers also found that 67% of patients and 55% of physicians are concerned that the changes taking place in the U.S. healthcare system, including the increased emphasis on controlling costs, will affect healthcare providers’ ability to provide compassionate care in the future.

The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare is a national nonprofit organization that educates and supports caregivers in the art and science of compassionate care. In response to its study findings, the Center has proposed an agenda for improving compassion in care. The proposals, published in the September 2011 issue of Health Affairs, include: 1) having the federal government include compassionate care measures in national quality standards and create a Compassionate Care Index to measure the level of compassionate care being delivered by healthcare organizations and individual providers; 2) funding comparative effectiveness research to determine which aspects of compassionate care have the greatest impact on health outcomes, quality of life, and patient satisfaction measures; 3) rewarding healthcare providers for delivering compassionate care; and 4) providing comprehensive training programs to assist healthcare providers and students develop the necessary skills required for compassionate care.


Lown BA, Rosen J, Martila J. An Agenda For Improving Compassionate Care: A Survey Shows About Half Of Patients Say Such Care Is Missing. Health Affairs, 2011; 30 (9): 1772-1778.

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