Calls for compassion, collaboration open CHIME’s 2023 Fall Forum
The CHIME 2023 Fall Forum opening keynote session featured several calls to action from CHIME Award winners and the main keynote speaker, Anthony Mazzarelli, MD, co-president and CEO of Cooper University Healthcare.
This year’s CHIME Foundation Industry Leader Award winner Howard Messing, CEO of Meditech, said despite the industry’s great progress, it’s vital to acknowledge the elephant in the room: EHRs, while essential for modern healthcare, have contributed to escalating healthcare delivery costs.
“Today I propose a challenge to each of us,” told the Fall Forum audience. “Let’s shift the conversation and prioritize our ability to explain to our children and grandchildren that, in addition to safety and efficiency, we’re diligently addressing the matter of cost in healthcare.” He urged colleagues to find a balance that ensures that technological advancements are not just impressive but also economically sustainable. He called out generative AI, as an example.
Shafiq Rab, vice president and CIO of Hackensack UMC, awarded CHIME CIO of the Year, urged collaboration as the way to move healthcare forward. He said CIOs need to share with other CIOs, hospitals with other hospitals, and payers, providers, and various EHRs need to be a part of this collaboration. “Without getting together, it’s not going to work,” he assured, pointing to better datasets as one of the top goals. He closed his remarks by referencing the 1970 movie Patton, specifically the quote attributed to General George Patton that describes war as “uncertainty and guaranteed debt, with a success rate of zero.”
If healthcare is a battlefield — as it sure seemed to be during the heart of the COVID pandemic — the light in the darkness has always been compassion. However, the modern digital world has caused more disconnect between people and, especially, between clinicians and their patients.
Based on the applause, Mazzarelli convinced a room packed with CHIME members that compassion —empathy combined with action — is the pathway to better patient outcomes, lower healthcare costs, and reduced burnout.
His team spent a year-and-a-half scouring every published study involving compassion, empathy and connecting with patients. From the thousands of studies and manuscripts, it was clear: Compassion is medicine. “This is not what we think or believe, it’s what we found,” he stated.
Traditionally, the science of medicine and the art of medicine are considered as separate things, he noted, but it turns out there is science in the art of medicine. “There is an overlap … and the data is incredibly strong,” he said, referencing this category called “compassion-omics.”
The TLDR? Compassionate care makes people feel better.
“When you think about cancer patients, anxiety is one of the few endpoints we can really focus on,” he explained, noting anxiety declines when there is high-compassion physician involved in the care. Compassion also has a positive impact on depression and mental health, he added. “Our traditional, organic causes of disease all get better when there is better interaction with those who provide that care. In diabetes, if you have a high-compassion physician, you have 80% higher odds of having a normal glucose level, and this was measured using standardized tools. Also, compassionate interaction can change the physiology of how the body reacts to the common cold.”
Related article: Compassion: An anecdote to burnout
Mazzarelli told Fall Forum attendees that on surveys patients consistently say they want someone who is going to listen to them. By following compassion-omics, providers can improve patient loyalty and associated financial performance.
“Compassion can drive revenue and decrease costs,” he assured. “We know that health systems that focus on patient experience drive better financial performance, even when you isolate for the different variables and the challenges hospitals face.” Hospitals that promote compassion, he explained, are more likely to have higher patient engagement and experience scores which means the patients come back more often. Other positive effects include fewer tests ordered, fewer charges and reduced overall spending per patient.
The cost of a burnt-out workforce also improves under compassion-omics. “When they can’t connect with patients, errors go up, malpractice suits go up,” Mazzarelli reported.
The benefits go beyond cost to the root satisfaction and wellbeing of clinicians, according to the studies his team reviewed. Doctors are taught early on to avoid getting too close to patients or risk getting burned out. If this were true, you would expect to see burnout increase as compassion in care increases. “In 90% of the studies, it’s the opposite,” he countered, noting clinicians want to feel valued and that they are making a difference in their patient’s health. “Really, compassion is protective of burnout.”
On a biological level, compassion lights up reward pathways, according to studies using functional MRI. This is powerful, addictive, and contagious in a good way.
He challenged the audience to increase their own compassion in care and to inspire others around them to do the same. “There is an enormous benefit to you and the people you lead and care for,” he promised, explaining that the power of hope and wisdom, of depending on each other and connecting will help grow and provide purpose and meaning that can combat a lot of the negative things happening out there today. “You have the power to influence people to do this.”
And with these rousing calls to action, CHIME 2023 Fall Forum was fired up and ready to move healthcare forward.