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Is health care innovation simply an act of compassion?

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Is health care innovation simply an act of compassion?

James Goertzen, MD

 

Northern Ontario makes up 87% of Ontario’s land mass, is inhabited by 6% of the province’s population, and has the highest rates of cancer and diabetes, along with cardiovascular and respiratory disease in Ontario. Disease prevalence is highest among the 13% of Indigenous northerners.

 

Providing health care in Northern Ontario in the future will be challenging, as the lifestyles of our citizens include high rates of obesity, alcohol consumption, smoking, and substance abuse.1 In our northern setting, physicians offer care that reflects their community’s needs and often includes a wider scope of practice allowing their patients to receive care closer to home.2 Optimizing and reforming health care in Northern Ontario and the rest of the province will require engagement of physician leaders,3 compassionate leadership, and innovation.

 

But what is the link between compassion and innovation? Is it possible that health care innovation is (simply) an act of compassion?

 

Reforming health care is not only the work of individual leaders. Rather, transformation is nurtured when organizations adopt enterprise-wide collaborative leadership models.4 It is the leadership that can role model and support a compassionate culture by influencing the actions of individual people within their organization.5 Compassionate organizations are the result of compassionate acts, and leadership can support or discourage compassionate acts.6  Top

 

But what is compassion in the workplace and how can it be recognized? Atkins and Parker7 and Worline and Dutton8 propose that compassion is a process that can be articulated and observed. Initially, a person notices or recognizes the suffering of another. Next, the person makes sense of the suffering — a cognitive process. This is followed by an emotional response where the person feels empathy or concern for the suffering of the other. This can then lead to an action to alleviate the suffering in some way that is meaningful.

 

There is a growing body of evidence in health care that compassionate leadership is linked to a compassionate workplace that supports organizational innovation.9 Innovation involves taking risks, and that requires people in the workplace to feel supported and valued. Innovation is possible when both the leadership and others in the organization accept the possibility of failure. In many ways, failure can be reframed as suffering, which can be addressed or alleviated within a workplace where compassionate acts are the norm.

As we ponder our roles and responsibilities in supporting the transformation of health care in Ontario, where compassion is central to the way we give and receive care, where do we start? When you witness the suffering of a colleague, consider an act of compassion. Consider your leadership role in supporting the compassionate acts of others. Realize that both can be a catalyst for making your workplace a compassionate and innovative organization that is a force for positive health care change in our communities. Top

 

References

1.Health Quality Ontario. Health in the north: a report on the geography and the health of people in Ontario’s two northern regions. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2017. Available: http://healthinthenorth.hqontario.ca/

2.Bosco C, Oandasan I. Review of family medicine within rural and remote Canada: education, practice, and policy. Mississauga: College of Family Physicians of Canada; 2106.

3.Van Aerde J, Dickson G. Accepting our responsibility: a blueprint for physician leadership in transforming Canada’s health care system. White paper. Ottawa: Canadian Society of Physician Leaders; 2017. Available: https://tinyurl.com/y4t4uepn

4.Best A, Greenhalgh T, Lewis S, Saul JE, Carrol S, Bitz J. Large-system transformation in health care: a realist review. Milbank Q 2012;90(3):421-56. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2012.00670.x

5.West M, Armit K, Loewenthal L, West T, Lee A. Leadership and leadership development in healthcare: the evidence base. London, UK: Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, King’s Fund; 2015.

6.Shea S. Is it possible to develop a compassionate organization? Int J Health Policy Manag 2015;4(11):769-70. DOI: 10.15171/ijhpm.2015.119

7.Atkins PWB, Parker SK. Understanding individual compassion in organizations: the role of appraisals and psychological flexibility. Acad Manage Rev 2012;37(4):524-6.

8.Worline MC, Dutton JE. Awakening compassion at work: the quiet power that elevates people and organizations. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler; 2017.

9.West M, Eckert R, Collins B, Chowla R. Caring to change: how compassionate leadership can stimulate innovation in health care. London, UK: King’s Fund; 2017.

 

Acknowledgements

Dr. Goertzen is the recipient of a 2017 Phoenix Fellowship — Developing Northern Ontario Compassionate Physician Leaders: A Pathway to Compassionate Care. Fellowship financial support is provided by Associated Medical Services Healthcare, Toronto, Ontario.

 

Author

James Goertzen, MD, MClSc, CCFP, is a professor of family medicine and assistant dean of continuing education and professional development at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

 

Correspondence to:

jgoertzen@nosm.ca

 

 

 Top

 

Northern Ontario makes up 87% of Ontario’s land mass, is inhabited by 6% of the province’s population, and has the highest rates of cancer and diabetes, along with cardiovascular and respiratory disease in Ontario. Disease prevalence is highest among the 13% of Indigenous northerners.

Is health care innovation simply an act of compassion?

James Goertzen, MD

 

Northern Ontario makes up 87% of Ontario’s land mass, is inhabited by 6% of the province’s population, and has the highest rates of cancer and diabetes, along with cardiovascular and respiratory disease in Ontario. Disease prevalence is highest among the 13% of Indigenous northerners.

 

Providing health care in Northern Ontario in the future will be challenging, as the lifestyles of our citizens include high rates of obesity, alcohol consumption, smoking, and substance abuse.1 In our northern setting, physicians offer care that reflects their community’s needs and often includes a wider scope of practice allowing their patients to receive care closer to home.2 Optimizing and reforming health care in Northern Ontario and the rest of the province will require engagement of physician leaders,3 compassionate leadership, and innovation.

 

But what is the link between compassion and innovation? Is it possible that health care innovation is (simply) an act of compassion?

 

Reforming health care is not only the work of individual leaders. Rather, transformation is nurtured when organizations adopt enterprise-wide collaborative leadership models.4 It is the leadership that can role model and support a compassionate culture by influencing the actions of individual people within their organization.5 Compassionate organizations are the result of compassionate acts, and leadership can support or discourage compassionate acts.6  Top

 

But what is compassion in the workplace and how can it be recognized? Atkins and Parker7 and Worline and Dutton8 propose that compassion is a process that can be articulated and observed. Initially, a person notices or recognizes the suffering of another. Next, the person makes sense of the suffering — a cognitive process. This is followed by an emotional response where the person feels empathy or concern for the suffering of the other. This can then lead to an action to alleviate the suffering in some way that is meaningful.

 

There is a growing body of evidence in health care that compassionate leadership is linked to a compassionate workplace that supports organizational innovation.9 Innovation involves taking risks, and that requires people in the workplace to feel supported and valued. Innovation is possible when both the leadership and others in the organization accept the possibility of failure. In many ways, failure can be reframed as suffering, which can be addressed or alleviated within a workplace where compassionate acts are the norm.

As we ponder our roles and responsibilities in supporting the transformation of health care in Ontario, where compassion is central to the way we give and receive care, where do we start? When you witness the suffering of a colleague, consider an act of compassion. Consider your leadership role in supporting the compassionate acts of others. Realize that both can be a catalyst for making your workplace a compassionate and innovative organization that is a force for positive health care change in our communities. Top

 

References

1.Health Quality Ontario. Health in the north: a report on the geography and the health of people in Ontario’s two northern regions. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2017. Available: http://healthinthenorth.hqontario.ca/

2.Bosco C, Oandasan I. Review of family medicine within rural and remote Canada: education, practice, and policy. Mississauga: College of Family Physicians of Canada; 2106.

3.Van Aerde J, Dickson G. Accepting our responsibility: a blueprint for physician leadership in transforming Canada’s health care system. White paper. Ottawa: Canadian Society of Physician Leaders; 2017. Available: https://tinyurl.com/y4t4uepn

4.Best A, Greenhalgh T, Lewis S, Saul JE, Carrol S, Bitz J. Large-system transformation in health care: a realist review. Milbank Q 2012;90(3):421-56. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2012.00670.x

5.West M, Armit K, Loewenthal L, West T, Lee A. Leadership and leadership development in healthcare: the evidence base. London, UK: Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, King’s Fund; 2015.

6.Shea S. Is it possible to develop a compassionate organization? Int J Health Policy Manag 2015;4(11):769-70. DOI: 10.15171/ijhpm.2015.119

7.Atkins PWB, Parker SK. Understanding individual compassion in organizations: the role of appraisals and psychological flexibility. Acad Manage Rev 2012;37(4):524-6.

8.Worline MC, Dutton JE. Awakening compassion at work: the quiet power that elevates people and organizations. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler; 2017.

9.West M, Eckert R, Collins B, Chowla R. Caring to change: how compassionate leadership can stimulate innovation in health care. London, UK: King’s Fund; 2017.

 

Acknowledgements

Dr. Goertzen is the recipient of a 2017 Phoenix Fellowship — Developing Northern Ontario Compassionate Physician Leaders: A Pathway to Compassionate Care. Fellowship financial support is provided by Associated Medical Services Healthcare, Toronto, Ontario.

 

Author

James Goertzen, MD, MClSc, CCFP, is a professor of family medicine and assistant dean of continuing education and professional development at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

 

Correspondence to:

jgoertzen@nosm.ca

 

 

 Top