New Book Review!!
Discovery - What happens when a Buddy Suggests a Book?
Victor Kolade MD, Member AIAMC Board of Directors
Have you ever attended a presentation but not acted on it until 3 years later?
Stephen Trzeciak, physician scientist and Professor of Medicine at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, made a presentation to the Guthrie community about his book Compassionomics in 2019. However, I did not read the book until a challenge to review it was publicly handed to me during a break-out session at the 2022 AIAMC Annual Meeting. And a great ‘flying buddy’ and elementary school teacher named Britney provided silent encouragement as I read the first fifty pages of Compassionomics.
Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring makes a Difference was birthed out of a literature review intended to provide a springboard for patient experience initiatives at Cooper University Health Care. The authors determined that there is a ‘compassion crisis’ in healthcare (1). Yet compassion can translate to physiological and psychological health benefits, as well as enhanced patient self-care and better quality of care (p. 42).
Even if You Just Read the Preface!
· A challenge jumped out at me from the preface of this book and got me thinking. What, in my view, is the most pressing problem in my sphere of function? Of the different things that I am opportune to do, what deserves my focus? What roles or tasks do I have internal clarity for?
· I was stuck here for a long time. (My recent approach to this has been to identify the things that do not beckon me the most and leave them alone if I can)
The Data. Studies referenced in Compassionomics are clear: physicians, nurses and nursing aides can improve patient care when their patients perceive compassion has been shown to them.
· In my practice, one of our patient service specialists calls patients to remind or alert them of lab work needed to complete their diabetes bundle (hemoglobin A1c, LDL, microalbumin) and successfully navigates them to the lab; likely she does so with compassion. You can learn more about this in the recent National Initiative VII Sustainability Webinar (Go to 25:46).
‘Compassion protects the vulnerable’ (p. 179). Also referenced by Trzeciak and Mazzarelli is data showing knowing one’s purpose in life – a concept I like to explore with patients - increases the likelihood of patients complying with health screening recommendations.
Compassionomics references data that indicates hospitals with higher patient experience ratings have higher profit margins than hospitals with lower patient satisfaction scores (p. 219).
· I read this while curating a new resident orientation curriculum for patient experience with a teammate who had alluded to a noticeable absence of outreach towards others as she walked our elevators and halls - and drew new inspiration for practicing and modeling compassion.
The book goes on to cite research suggesting the injection of compassionate statements worth an extra 32-56 seconds in a patient-clinician interaction translates to a meaningful positive difference of patient perception of the interaction that may last six months (p. 256).
· I agree that spending time connecting with patients improves their satisfaction and outcomes but contend from experience that 40 seconds per encounter is insufficient to maximize patient experience and clinician well-being; there appears to be a dose-response aspect to the power of compassion to provide benefit, which is discussed in relation to clinician wellness (p. 304-5). Note: Compassionomics authors do cite a study to the effect that ‘time affluence’ – the perception of having plenty of time, not being in a rush, and being willing to give more time to others – is boosted by spending time on others rather than on oneself (p. 260); it turns out our orientation message to new residents is to say to patients: ‘I have time’.
Burnout? Compassionomics also presents data implying the practice of compassion is protective against clinician burnout. And that being other focused mitigates depression and anxiety.
· I have had opportunities for burnout before making this discovery, but currently benefit from a personal strategic plan of other centeredness!
My Bottom Line? It seems that compassion, like other aspects of medical care, lends itself to lifelong learning. That, for me, is the message of Compassionomics.
1. Trzeciak, S. & Mazzarelli, A. (2019). Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring makes a difference. Studer Group, Pensacola.
Dr. Victor Kolade is Clinical Professor of Medicine & Regional Clerkship Director for Internal Medicine, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.
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