Closing the Gap Between Good and Great: Compassion

Recently Mark Behl shared a blog highlighting Fred Lee’s  TedxMaastrict talk, Patient Satisfaction or Patient Experience?  I really enjoyed watching the video. Lee is both funny and poignant as he demonstrates how the “little” interactions between the patient and their caregiver can send an experience from  “It was okay” to “I want (him/her) to take care of me every single time!”

The latter response is what cements patient loyalty. So how do we get there?

We can check all the boxes as to what we are supposed to do in an interaction with a patient, but when it gets down to it, the human-to-human interaction that occurs needs something more than a script. Our interactions with each other have to be driven somewhere from our hearts–no one wants to be cared for by someone who doesn’t really care.

In his Ted Talk, Lee demonstrates how we can check all the boxes in the world and still miss the mark as it relates to reducing a patient’s anxiety  and easing their way during their visit. The interaction can be ‘perfect’ and yet still leave the patient running for the door.


 “In any way you can measure what she did it was perfect. Perfect clinically. Perfect for service. Perfect for courtesy. But was she great?” 

The answer, obviously, is no. Mr. Lee would never choose to have the first “Shari” take his blood again. In fact, despite hitting every mark on anything measurable in that interaction, it’s safe to presume that Mr. Lee would have no qualms seeking out another healthcare provider the next time he needed a service.

The second ‘Shari’, however, confirmed her spot in Mr. Lee’s mind–and heart– as a caregiver who is competent and caring. The small nuances in her interactions with him, such as the way she asked a non clinical question to help put him at ease and the words she chose to say as she explained the procedure– “I’m going to be as gentle as possible”–have immeasurable effects on his perception of care.

Our compassion is what closes the gap between “good” and “great”. Compassion is lived out in the smallest of acts, and next to safety in a patient’s mind, few things matter more.




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