Illustration of emotions - empathy

Empathy.Health: Taking Healthcare’s Hottest Topic from Words to Action

Last fall, when Michael Joseph first learned that he could register a .health domain, he was surprised at first to see that the domain name “empathy.health” was still available. But after thinking about it, this made perfect sense: empathy.health had not been registered because empathy is typically not front-and-center in the daily conversations and interactions surrounding the healthcare industry. It was a trend that he had been noticing for a while. While some may argue that empathy is simply intrinsic to the delivery of care, evidence suggests that this not consistent and pervasive throughout the industry.

At HIMSS18, Michael joined forces with UPMC Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. Rasu Shrestha and patient leader, Catherine Bostia, along with assistance from John Sharp, PCHA senior manager, to announce empathy.health. They explained that the initiative’s goal is to bring empathy into the daily work we do in healthcare as a strategic and humane imperative, by focusing on the intersection of care delivery, innovation, and technology, with the following vision and mission:

Vision statement: Become the leading advocacy organization and virtual community – share inspiring stories, information, best practices, and lessons learned that instill empathy in the digital health age.

Mission Statement: Ensure that empathy permeates the entire system’s development lifecycle: planning, design, implementation, clinical validation and user adoption, so that the human-centered aspect of digital health transformation, including people, process and technology, truly enhance patient engagement and the overall patient experience.

So, how do we build trust and understanding in healthcare? According to Michael Joseph, “Empathy must be a strategic humane imperative and a core value across the industry to build trusting relationships in healthcare,” he said. “Empathy and trust go hand-in-hand.”

At the empathy.health announcement, Rasu stressed the importance of design-thinking that begins with empathy. It’s an approach that goes beyond demographics, patient conditions, and other data points to consider the end user’s needs, emotions, motivations, and opinions. And increasingly, it involves sitting down with patients and clinicians to solve problems.

What does empathy in healthcare look like? That depends on who you ask. But for Amanda Greene, empathy.health member and patient advocate, the doctor-patient relationship has to be one that’s built on honesty, trust, and understanding. Amanda has been living with lupus and other autoimmune conditions for 36 years. However, when her doctor of 30 years retired six years ago, it took her two years to find a team that truly understood and supported her.

“The relationship I’ve built with my providers, maybe that’s rare for some people,” explained Amanda. “But when I’m sick, sometimes I see them more than I see my friends. At empathy.health, we want big companies to know that patients want to be involved in the process,” said Amanda. “We’re here, we’re willing to share, we want to help.”

What Action Looks Like

Empathy.health is an advocacy organization and virtual community for those who want to put empathy into daily practice at their hospital, their department, their design firm — even at home. Soon it will be a place where you can check best practices, read inspirational stories, and collaborate with other members of the community. But most importantly, it is place where you can begin that all-important journey of attempting to understand what can never be fully understood: what it’s like to be a patient with a life-altering condition, or a doctor who has to work weekends away from their family, or a caregiver who put aside their own ambitions to care for someone else. “It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes instead of putting them in their place,” said Rasu.

But empathy.health is also about turning a collective dream into reality, bringing together the ideas and resources that already exist, and creating more.

“We aren’t trying to take the limelight away from all of these different individuals that are trying to push empathy forward, we’re trying to encourage that,” said Rasu. “We’re trying to create a repository, a directory where all of those great resources can be indexed in one place.”

For more about the vision of empathy.health, check out their video from the launch at HIMSS 2018:

Creating a Space for Empathy with a .Health

There are many reasons to get a .health domain, but for Michael and his team, the decision to go with a .health was a no-brainer:

“For one thing, it puts us in the industry without any question about where we’re focused,” said Michael. “Secondly, it aligns us with like-minded individuals in healthcare and digital transformation — the ecosystem around .health. Not just the .health extension, but the people behind the .health movement. I really wanted to be involved in that.  It’s not just a name, it’s what the name represents: the commitment, passion, and vision — and we’re thrilled to be a part of it!”

The People Behind Empathy.Health

The people who are building a home for the movement for empathy in healthcare are clinicians and patients, caregivers and digital health professionals. They all have a passion for the cause and a story to tell. Please visit empathy.health for more information.

Join The Movement

The empathy.health team is seeking advisors, collaborators, and contributors. If you are interested in getting involved or would like more information, please fill out the contact form at empathy.health. You can also follow the team at @empathy4health on Twitter.

 

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