Better Health Care: Try a Little Empathy

Personal touches, such as more doctor visits and friendlier transport, can improve patient care and hospitals' bottom lines

In typical conversations about the U.S. health-care system, it is rare to hear "cost control" and "patient satisfaction" in the same sentence. Conventional wisdom suggests that health-care organizations often achieve cost savings at the expense of patient experience, and that "high touch" service occurs primarily in fancy facilities or in the doctors' offices that do not accept insurance. Let's face it: Many of the well-known examples of health-care cost cuts—like longer wait times, shorter interactions with clinicians, and increasingly automated customer service—leave patients feeling as if their personal interests are in direct opposition to the cost-conscious interests of the health-care organizations that serve them.

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