New Jersey physician advocates for 40 seconds of undivided attention between providers, patients

Stephen Trzeciak, MD, a critical care physician at Camden, N.J.-based Cooper University Health Care, gave a TedxPenn talk about what he believes is the most pressing problem we face today as a society: a compassion crisis in healthcare.

Dr. Trzeciak further discussed this concept during an August 6 podcast from Knowledge@Wharton, an online business journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.   

Here are five things to know:

1. After his 12-year-old son asked for help preparing a speech on the most pressing problem of our time, Dr. Trzeciak realized he was not following the same advice he was about to give as a physician and researcher. This lead to the question: Does compassion really matter?

2. Trzeciak conducted a systematic review of biomedical literature and determined compassion is important to patients and patient care.

3. However, he identified physicians' increased time looking at computer screens or the EHR and less time spent with patients as a contributing factor to this compassion crisis. Fifty-six percent of physicians feel they don't have time to be compassionate in their daily routine, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and cited by Dr. Trzeciak.

4. Trzeciak coined the term "compassionomics" to highlight the connection between more compassionate, patient-centered care and lower healthcare costs.

"The bottom line is that if healthcare providers actually spend more time connecting with patients and talking with them, maybe we don’t need all these tests and referrals," he said on the podcast.

5. Dr. Trzeciak cited a second study from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University of Medicine measuring compassion intervention among cancer patients. When oncologists met with patients and shared messages of compassion, it only took 40 seconds to lower patients' anxiety."When you're a healthcare provider and you tell me you don’t have enough time to be compassionate, you probably have 40 seconds," Dr. Trzeciak said on the podcast.

More articles on patient engagement: 

End-of-life discussions with nonmedical workers boost patient satisfaction, study finds
Physicians give patients 11 seconds to explain reasons for visit before interrupting
Emory Healthcare stumbles in form letter to dead patient's parents

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