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The Container Store, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and Apple Computers are considered empathetic organizations based on their ability to understand and sometimes predict the needs of their satisfied customers. With this in mind, health care organizations can also strive to become more empathetic toward their customers: the patients, explains Geoffrey Silvera, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Administration at Penn State.

Silvera and his poster highlighting his recent research were recently honored at AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting (ARM) in Baltimore. Titled “Empathy Revealed,” Silvera’s poster earned “Best Student Poster” accolades.

Geoffrey Silvera

Silvera’s research, in part, examined data from HCAHPS surveys to capture the degree of empathy within specific health care organizations. Specifically, Silvera used performance ratings from eight topic areas – communication of doctor, communication of nurses, responsiveness of staff, communication about medicine, pain management, quietness of hospital, cleanliness of hospital, and discharge information – all of which are relatable to practices of empathetic organizations.

"I think what my have made the difference with this work is that a customer service orientation is easy to interpret, but notoriously hard to measure. Dr. Jonathan Clark and I have found a way to isolate a measurement from the existing HCAHPS and I'm glad that others in the Academy are as excited as we are about it,” Silvera says.

Silvera’s study suggest a need to re-orient systems around patients to ensure patient-centered, empathic care. Such care, Silvera stresses, is possible in “an organization capable of identifying, understanding, and responding to the physical and emotional needs of those they serve.”

AcademyHealth's ARM hosts more than 2,400 attendees each year who gather to discuss health policy implications, sharpen research methods, and network with colleagues from around the world.

As for his recognition, Silvera says, “It is a great honor, and we look forward to pushing this research agenda forward."