In difficult and trying times, humanity finds common ground with one anecdote: Kindness. Whether it is a nationwide issue like 9/11, a global issue like COVID-19 or a more personal issue like a life-threatening or chronic diagnosis, the intangible thing most people need, want and will gladly receive is kindness. Kindness shows up in the simplest of ways: a positive word or compliment, an extra level of service, a small gift or even a prayer.
In healthcare organizations it is relatively easy to direct kindness toward the patient, but to be consistent it first must begin with how employees treat one another in the workplace. It needs to show up from the moment a candidate is interviewed, through onboarding, and then the manner in which employees are treated by their supervisors and peers. Kindness can be included in the annual review process, applying for awards and even in giving corrective feedback. Research shows the key to spreading kindness is through acts of goodness, even in the workplace. Employees who are respectful and kind to each other have 26% more energy, 36% more satisfaction with their work, and 44% more commitment to their organization. Kindness is clearly good for business.
Kindness costs little beyond time and intention and has ancillary health benefits. Positive interpersonal connection is a proven way to promote resilience and happiness. It is associated with decreased mortality and markers of better health. Kindness and caring are prosocial behaviors that build positive interpersonal connections and can uplift both the giver and receiver.
While we know toxic behavior can destroy company morale, productivity and patient outcomes, the fascinating thing about kindness is how quickly it can catch on and spread in an organization. In a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard provide the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. When people benefit from kindness, they “pay it forward” by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in their social network.
Hiring the right people
In the current “buyer’s market”, clinical candidates are savvy and discriminating about where they chose to work. In addition to salary and benefits, culture is heavily weighted. Top Factors for selection of a new position include the value the position will add to one’s life, the interest in a team environment, and a feeling of trust and appreciation. Alignment of values is also critical, so employers must make those clear upfront. This is especially true in a healthcare delivery environment. Generally healthcare workers are naturally bent towards kindness and want to be sure that is one of the core values of the organization they work for.
Increasing referral sources
How positively a health clinic treats one another and those they serve directly impacts the consistency and ongoing success of referral sources. “Patients are more likely to choose a provider or office where they feel comfortable, secure, and like their needs will be heard. In a time where consumers feel more empowered to make decisions about their own healthcare, it is imperative that practices take a step forward to showcase themselves in the best light”  Ensuring patients know how to share positive feedback in a digital manner for services is necessary in a modern healthcare environment. Just as important are the high percentage of patients who come from referral sources such as specialty practices who have a vested interest in how their patients will be treated by another provider in a chain of care.
Improving the patient experience
Patients with chronic conditions navigate complex health insurance issues, including higher out of pocket expenses and the challenge of getting new medications covered. Kindness coming from revenue cycle staff creates a lasting impression that is often heard in reviews from our patients. Additional tangible ways of sharing kindness include offering additional comforts in an infusion center setting like snacks and drinks, comfortable chairs, warm blankets and space for family. However, without kindness from staff the impact of those actions is lessened. Patients will remember how they felt. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That was according to Maya Angelou.
Symbolism matters as well and can provide continuity and crucial reminders that care givers really do care. TwelveStone offers a gift back to each new patient including a stone marked with a ‘12’ to act as a memory of a positive experience and a hope of healing. More than once I’ve been stopped by a family member thanking our team for the level of care a loved one received.
Patients and family members want to make informed choices. They want to hear things in easy-to-understand language. They don’t want to feel belittled or confused about care protocols. Investing in the provision of live, print video education for patients and loved ones, showing them, we care about what to do after they leave the clinic and continue their care at home is both kind and necessary. Addressing all the way in which people prefer to learn is crucial to compliance and good outcomes.
Kindness is not weakness
Kindness is not weakness it is in fact good business. Hiring the right people, nurturing and increasing referral channels, and providing an excellent patient experience are all competitive advantages and result in both better outcomes, improved patient satisfaction and enhanced profitability. There is a real opportunity cost to not being kind in terms of employee turnover, decreased patient volumes and a lack of compliance to care regimes that can directly impacting the bottom line. Mr. Rogers said it best.
“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”Fred Rogers
Shane Reeves, PharmD, is CEO TwelveStone Health Partners.