The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening relationships between patients and caregivers and promoting compassionate, patient-centered care.
The center reflects the vision of Ken Schwartz, a Boston health care attorney who, before he died of lung cancer at age 40, found that what mattered to him most as a patient were the simple acts of kindness from his caregivers, which he said made “the unbearable bearable.” He founded the Schwartz Center in 1995 to ensure that all patients are treated with compassion. The center is housed at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where Ken received his care.
Through its National Consensus Project on Compassionate Healthcare, the Schwartz Center is bringing together patients, caregivers, policymakers, educators and researchers to reach consensus on a definition of compassionate care, develop best practices, and disseminate them to health care organizations across the U.S.
The center's goal is to ensure that compassionate care is a fundamental element in the design of health systems, the provision of care, the measurement of quality and outcomes, and the education of all health care professionals.
Compassionate care is fundamental to the practice of all health care professions. It is characterized by effective communication and emotional support, mutual trust and respect, and involving patients and families in health care decisions. At its core, it means treating patients as people, not just illnesses.
A growing body of research demonstrates that compassionate care is essential to quality healthcare. For example, compassionate care has been associated with:
- Improved health outcomes
- Reduced healthcare expenditures
- Increased patient satisfaction
- Better adherence to treatment recommendations
- Fewer malpractice claims
Founder of the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare
In November of 1994, Boston health care attorney Ken Schwartz was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. His case was riddled with terrible ironies. He was only 40 and a nonsmoker. He ate well and exercised regularly.
During his 10-month ordeal, Ken came to realize that what matters most during an illness is the human connection between patients and their caregivers. He wrote movingly about his experience in an article for the Boston Globe Magazine titled “ A Patient’s Story.” In the story, he reminds caregivers to stay in the moment with patients and how “the smallest acts of kindness” make “the unbearable bearable.” His commentary has become a touchstone for the Schwartz Center and readers all over the country and the world.
At the end of his life, Ken outlined the organization he wanted to create. It would be a center that would nurture the compassion in healthcare, encouraging the sorts of caregiver-patient relationships that made all the difference to him. He founded the Schwartz Center in 1995 – just days before his death – to ensure that all patients receive compassionate and humane care.
(This information was adapted from the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare.)