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Patients need more compassion, a joint University of Manitoba and University of Calgary study reports.

Researchers develop innovative patient-reported compassion measure for health care

June 17, 2021 — 

A joint University of Manitoba and University of Calgary team have scoured research studies, formal health inquiries and survey data from patients in the health-care system and report that compassion is lacking from patients’ experience.

Such lack of compassion, the team report, is often the main culprit for low patient satisfaction,  increased patient complaints, low quality care ratings and increased adverse health events.

As a result, co-investigators Drs. Thomas Hack, from UM’s College of Nursing, and Shane Sinclair from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Nursing, developed a scientific measure to assess, monitor and improve compassion in health-care research and clinical practice. The Sinclair Compassion Questionnaire (SCQ) (www.compassionmeasure.com) is based on data gathered from more than 600 patients in acute care, long-term care and hospice settings in a study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

“There are other tools that attempt to measure compassion, but there was nothing
out there that was developed from the perspective of patients directly that measured
compassion in a sufficiently rigorous and comprehensive manner,” Sinclair, director o U of C’s compassion care lab, says. “Current tools have significant limitations, including but not limited to, self-reporting bias, and they often use poorly developed definitions and empirical models of compassion.”

The’s SCQ is a valid and reliable patient-reported compassion measure to allow researchers, health-care providers, system leaders and governments to assess, monitor and improve patients’ experience of compassion. It is administered to patients on a routine basis to measure their ongoing experience of compassion from their health care providers in real time. 

At its foundation is a patient-derived model and definition of compassion which informed the entire CIHR-funded study: “A virtuous response that seeks to address the suffering and needs of a person through relational understanding and action,” published in the British Medical Journal Open.

The researchers hope that compassion will be continuously measured and that eventually the SCQ could be embedded in patient medical records that could be aggregated to produce institutional compassion scores, allowing health care teams to improve compassion and patients and families to determine things such as which long-term care home to place their loved ones in, based on the compassion scores of those facilities.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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