Doctors Showing Humanity? National Love Your Patients Day, Feb. 7, Reminds Health Care Professionals Why They're Here

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Health care providers, medical facilities, nursing homes and clinics across the country will put their concern for patients as people before anything else in the second annual National Love Your Patients Day on Feb. 7. They will display compassion and empathy. In a word, they will put the "care" back in health care.

Doctors, nurses, paramedics and all other health care professionals will be giving a prescription . . . to themselves on Feb. 7 -- a prescription for compassion, respect and humility as part of the second annual National Love Your Patients Day.

National Love Your Patients Day -- conceived by Dr. Scott Diering, an emergency medicine physician at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the founder of Love Your Patients! (http://www.loveyourpatients.org), a humanistic health care resource in Frederick, Md. -- is dedicated to improving health care in the United States by:

  • Increasing compassionate humanity in health care.
  • Striving to provide patients with more satisfaction with their health care experience.
  • Teaching practitioners ways to act with respect and humility.
  • Reducing litigation risks with better communication that demonstrates compassionate humanity -- not just clinical excellence.

"This is an important day, in which private practitioners, medical facilities, nursing homes and clinics across the country put their concern for patients as people before anything else," Diering says. "They display compassion and empathy. In a word, they put the 'care' back in health care."

When patients talk about how good their health care is, Diering adds, they don't talk about "numbers or outcomes," which is often how practitioners determine quality. Patients talk about their own human experience, he says.

Diering calls the providers participating in National Love Your Patients Day "among the vanguard in a growing professional awareness of a need for a more compassionate system of health care in this country. They are among the first dominos among practitioners who are restoring the heart and humanity of health care."

Diering says that people who receive medical care "all too often" say that even when they benefit from the expertise of first-rate doctors, they often feel resentful, helpless and dehumanized in the process. This is because doctors and other health professionals are increasingly influenced by technology, insurance companies, tight budgets and staff shortages, he says.

"We have lost sight of the patient's human condition," says Diering, who is also the author of "LOVE YOUR PATIENTS! Improving Patient Satisfaction with Essential Behaviors That Enrich the Lives of Patients and Professionals" (Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2004). "We forget our patients' suffering, their personhood."

Other benefits of humanistic, or values-based, medicine:

  • Superior healing and improved health: Patients say they are happier with their care and more satisfied with their practitioners when they are treated with humanistic love (sometimes known as "agape," from the Greek word for selfless love), according to published medical research.
  • Higher-quality health care: Doctors and other providers who practice humanistic medicine deliver better care than when they remain emotionally detached, studies show. The providers are also happier with their work, reducing burnout.
  • Fewer malpractice suits: Practicing humanistic medicine -- which includes acknowledging mistakes when they happen -- also dramatically reduces the risks and incidence of malpractice lawsuits, studies show. Malpractice claims against 1,800 doctors in Colorado, for instance, dropped 50 percent since 2000 when the doctors immediately expressed remorse to patients when medical care went wrong, according to Colorado's largest malpractice insurer, COPIC.

Harvard Medical School's major teaching hospitals are considering adopting a sweeping disclosure policy that would establish detailed procedures for physicians to openly acknowledge medical errors and other bad results to their patients, and provide for training in apologizing.

Growing numbers of medical schools now integrate humanistic medical teaching into their curriculums. The American Medical Student Association, the nation's oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training, now has an action committee focusing on humanistic medicine. The committee supports patients and developing physicians who consider healing "a sacred, interpersonal experience between mindful and authentic human beings."

Humanistic medicine "is not psychobabble," says Diering. "It's the wave of the future. National Love Your Patients Day reminds all of us in health care what we're really here for -- for our patients. And it's the intention of this day that those of us in health care will soon no longer need this day because we will show this type of compassion for our patients every day."

For more information about National Love Your Patients Day or any aspect of improving humanistic health care, contact Love Your Patients. at (301) 620-1588 or Diering at (240) 285-5290. The center's Web site is http://www.loveyourpatients.org.

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Gerry Harrington
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