How small acts of compassion may improve the patient experience

Maria1, an 82-year-old woman recovering from a stroke in a hospital in Brazil, spent her days bedridden, with no family or loved ones nearby to visit her. Her care team noticed she was showing signs of depression and quickly spoke to her about the simple joys in her life that she was missing. Based on those conversations, the ComPaixão (Compassion) team arranged for an afternoon tea, outside on a hospital patio, complete with her favorite snacks. Maria enjoyed breathing fresh air, conversing with one of her doctors and even sang a song for hospital staff. A simple act of compassion made a significant difference in her health. The depression receded and she successfully continued her overall recovery.

When people get sick, they cope with more than just their primary illness. Throughout their care and recovery, psychological and spiritual challenges may complicate the process of getting better. Fortunately, addressing the needs of patients above and beyond their medical conditions is within reach. 

Americas Serviços Médicos care delivery network in Brazil – part of UnitedHealthcare Global – focuses on compassion with the ComPaixão program. The mission is simple: Practice active listening with each patient, then do as much as possible to support their unique needs.

Simple acts may have profound impacts. The ComPaixão program’s effort to seek out stressors that impact a patient’s well-being has created an opportunity for a more holistic approach to care. Taking a few minutes to discuss potential stressors, even those not directly related to clinical care in a hospital, helps show respect for the humanity of each patient. This empathetic mission helps build rapport between the care team and the patient. As a result, the patient’s journey may improve.

Through listening and a bit of planning, the care team has the potential to change the tone and trajectory of a hospital stay. Most often, patients’ wishes would reflect the simple pleasures they enjoyed at home — a favorite breakfast or time spent outdoors — which may be elusive in the day-to-day hospital setting. 

When care team members are encouraged to listen, they do more than just care for an illness, they help meet the needs of the whole person. Providing spiritual and psychological support alongside medical care may also help the clinician better achieve their goal of delivering wraparound services for their patients. The ComPaixão program is an example of how each patient’s individual needs are important to their overall success, and that small deeds help bring great rewards.

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