As a physician specializing in neurosurgery at an academic medical center, I appreciate the unhappiness many patients have with the present healthcare delivery system that is rushed, bureaucratic, non-caring and technology-focused. In the U.S. we spend more per capita than any other industrialized country, yet the outcomes are some of the worst in the world, with the highest levels of patient dissatisfaction.
What is the solution? Francis W. Peabody, M.D. said in 1925 that, “the secret of the care of the patient is caring for the patient.” These words are even more true today and are now backed by an ever enlarging body of science that demonstrates that kindness, compassion and empathy have a profound effect on healing. This new body of evidence spanning psychology, neuroscience, and even economics reveals that as a species our default mode is not one of self-centeredness but that we are wired to connect and when we connect our physiology improves for the better. For example, a study that subjected volunteers to the common cold virus on purpose as part of the experiment found that when those volunteers rated the doctor who interacted with them as very kind, they were less likely to develop a full-blown cold, their symptoms were less severe, and the illness cleared up faster.
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