Americans want 'kind' health care, Dignity survey reveals

December 15, 2013


Kindness is a top priority for Americans when it comes to health care; and people are willing to switch providers, pay more and travel further to receive "kind" health care. That is according to a nationwide survey commissioned by San Francisco-based Dignity Health as part of the "Hello humankindness" campaign that the system launched this summer.

"All people want to be and need to be treated with dignity and respect," and that is no different when they access health care services, said Dr. Gary Greensweig, Dignity chief physician executive and a member of a dignity brand strategy council running the "Hello humankindness" campaign.

"When patients come into our care, they are at their most vulnerable point, and to me that is why human kindness is so important to them, and that's why the survey results show it's so important," Greensweig said.

The survey, which was conducted online by Wakefield Research in October, found that 87 percent of respondents feel kind treatment by a physician is more important than other top priorities in choosing a provider. They ranked kindness above average wait times for appointments, distance from home and the cost of care. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they would want to switch providers if they were treated unkindly, and 72 percent would be willing to pay more to be treated by a kind physician. Eighty-eight percent would be willing to travel further to receive care from a kind provider.

However, according to the survey of 1,400 U.S. adults, 64 percent have experienced unkind behavior in a health care setting. This included staff rudeness, poor listening skills and/or a failure of providers to connect with patients on a personal level.

Greensweig said with the thousands and thousands of interactions that happen daily in health care between patients and caregivers, there are myriad "opportunities for sacred interactions, good interactions, great interactions as well as interactions where we aren't as good."

And, also, with all the pressures on the health care system and on providers, "we don't always act our best."

But "delivering human kindness is our mission and purpose — it's why we exist and why we get up every day," said Greensweig. And so, Dignity is helping caregivers to emphasize kindness, he said. The system is doing this by drawing employees' attention to the importance of kindness. The system is planning a series of staff seminars on how to improve health care delivery, including by being more kind.

But, Dignity's goal is not just to help staff to be nicer, said Greensweig. "This is a movement … and we're calling on all people to be kind."

The Dignity-commissioned survey found that 95 percent of respondents believe that they themselves are kind, but 48 percent believe society is unkind. Half think children today will grow up to be less kind than their parents.

"Part of our focus (in our campaign) is raising the concept of human kindness in general to the national consciousness," Greensweig said.

To that end, Dignity's $11 million campaign includes national advertising, a social media push, public relations outreach and internal communications efforts at Dignity, all aimed at encouraging people to be nicer. A website,, provides ideas on how people can be kinder and highlights examples of generous and heroic people.

"We want people to associate Dignity with human kindness," Greensweig said.


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.