Keep kindness at the core of healthcare

The points made by Dr Yik Keng Yeong and Ms Yeow Beng Zhen are valid, though one must be careful not to tar the medical profession with the same brush (Where is the compassion in the healing profession?; Human touch missing from interactions with doctors; both published on July 12).

When a patient is charged an exorbitant amount of more than $82,000 for her hospital stay and treatment, with each sponge bath, injection and change of urine bag coming at a price, it is indeed time we relook how healthcare organisations and their staff can treat patients in a less transactional manner.

A Stanford University study has shown that when patients are treated with kindness, it can lead to faster healing of wounds, reduced pain and anxiety, reduced blood pressure and shorter hospital stays.

This involves an effort by healthcare providers to get to know patients, as well as empathise, communicate, listen and respond to their needs.

The study also shows that when doctors and nurses act compassionately, patients are more likely to listen to their doctor and adhere to their prescribed treatments.

Doctors and nurses, too, benefit from being kind.

A kinder work environment allows doctors and nurses to be more engaged and less exhausted.

They have increased resilience to stress and higher levels of positive emotions to do meaningful work.

This is especially important as the demands in the healthcare industry are high, and many healthcare professionals suffer from burnout.

Kindness, empathy and compassion should be viewed as an indispensable part of the healing process.

It is a good antidote to the poison of material transnationalism in modern medicine.

It is time we return to the fundamental principles of the Physician's Pledge, which all doctors must affirm before they can be granted the registration to practice.

Upholding the noble traditions of the profession requires the doctor to rise above the temptations of materialism.

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'Keep kindness at the core of healthcare'. Print Edition | Subscribe