Why compassion and empathy are so important in healthcare today.


In both business and in healthcare, compassion and empathy are a becoming increasingly important. Maybe its the world we live in today, or maybe its just humans in general wanting to be cared for and understood. What we can tell you is, compassion + empathy are both critical and important for both physicians and business people.

Not long ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wouldn't have been a standout among tech leaders for his strong belief in empathy and non-combative communication.

His predecessor, Steve Ballmer, had a “big, brash and bullish”personality that more closely fit the stereotypical CEO profile. These days, however, Nadella’s gentle, compassion-first ethos is not extraordinarily radical. To different degrees, it’s mirrored in Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Uber’s new chief, Dara Khosrowshahi. All of these CEOs seem to be listeners first, and are reported to be team players. Why is it this way now? because humans, people and the relationship between the two matter the most.

Lets dive into some of the details of empathy and compassion:

What is compassion? It sounds a lot like empathy, one of the major components of emotional intelligence. Is there a difference? Yes, an important difference.

Three kinds of empathy are important emotional intelligence, a trait that is so important in healthcare professionals.

  1. Cognitive empathy - the ability to understand another person's point of view
  2. Emotional empathy - the ability to feel what some else feels
  3. Empathetic concern - the ability to sense what another person needs from you. It's what you want in your doctor. It enables you to sense not just how people feel but what they need from you. 

Compassion takes empathy a step further. When you feel compassion, you feel distress and when you see someone else in distress - and because of that you want to help them. Simply put, compassion makes the difference between understanding and caring. A positive disposition towards another creates the kind of resonance that builds trust, loyalty and makes interactions harmonious. The opposite of this, is when you do nothing to show you care - it creates distrust and disharmony and causes huge dysfunction in healthcare and in business.

A 2011 survey of 800 recently hospitalized patients found that only 53 percent of them felt that their physicians were empathic and caring. And it’s not just in their heads: In one study where doctor-patient encounters were videotaped, researchers found that doctors often overlooked or dismissed signs of distress communicated by patients, providing empathic responses only 22 percent of the time.

Following a wave of research suggesting the far-reaching benefits of emotionally attuned physicians, these leaders have been exploring ways to infuse more empathy into the medical field. It's beginning to change - its becomming a movement.