The Value of the Little Things

...A sympathetic touch from a doctor leaves people with the impression that the visit lasted twice as long, compared with estimates from people who were untouched....

Healthcare delivery innovation is stigmatized by the fact that its new concepts are rarely shockingly new or revolutionary. The best ideas are often reintroductions of ideas that used to be fundamental parts of the experience. An analysis of the history of care delivery is littered with small actions that were written off as individual behaviors and not seen as important components and were therefore abandoned in a quest towards efficiency. This research insight about touch strikes me as one of those discarded truths.

It is easy to write this insight off as the responsibility of individuals; individual doctors should remember to touch individual patients. But that strikes me as a colossal mistake. The innovation this insight demands is a change in the systems of delivery that support those individuals. It requires many small changes that combine to create an environment in which it is more likely than not that touch will naturally occur as part of the interaction. Those small changes could include the length of the visit, the arrangement of the furniture, the physician's training,  and the care team support staff just to name a few.

From NY Times "New Research Focuses on the Power of Physical Contact"