AHP Connect Articles

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CEO Corner: Ethically Advancing Our Mission

Alice Ayres
Published:  01/28/2019

While every health care organization’s mission is written using different words, the common theme is to provide the best possible care to every patient, every time. This care is provided without bias and without regard for financial means or other personal considerations of any patient, often at great expense to our health care organizations. This is our collective mission as the providers of health care to our communities, and we are honored to advance it.

We do this even as changes in reimbursement put pressure on our financial viability. We do this even as our physicians suffer burnout and depression rates that lead to suicides at twice the national average. We do this because we care deeply about each and every person who entrusts us with their care.

We have found a powerful, meaningful solution to many of these issues — one that helps patients on their road to physical and emotional recovery while at the same time helping physicians recover from burnout and depression. The science behind the expression of gratitude is remarkable. An expression of gratitude in any form provides positive benefit to both the person expressing it and to the person who receives that expression. 

Hospitals across the country are embracing the idea that building a culture of gratitude — creating the space to allow the expressions to be made, teaching caregivers how to receive gratitude in a meaningful way and inviting those who have personal experience with our care providers to support our mission — can improve the lives of all those who give and receive health care.

One very powerful way patients express their gratitude is by choosing to support the physician or the organization that has provided them care through charitable giving. Our health care philanthropy professionals recognize this and have become experts in helping patients to find an outlet for their intentions. 

We do not engage in grateful patient programs or the practice of wealth screening without careful introspection. There are laws that regulate patient confidentiality — to which we adhere strictly. But as a group, we concluded that just adhering to the law was not enough. A group of 29 leaders in the health care industry — donors, physicians, ethicists, board members, lawyers, academics, professional societies and hospital executives — gathered at the invitation of AHP’s health care philanthropy leaders to examine grateful patient programs and the practice of wealth screening. The report details specific recommendations to ensure that, in all cases, a patient’s health and well-being is our primary consideration, while any expression of charitable intent is put on hold until an appropriate time. We have work still to do here, and we are dedicated to ensuring transparency in all areas.

The generosity of our patients and our donors is immeasurable. Their stories are truly inspiring. They are as dedicated to ensuring every person has the very best care possible as we are, and they do so through expressions of gratitude in charitable giving every day. We are humbled and thankful for all they do for us, our communities and our world.

NEWS  /09/26/18
This is a truly exciting time to be in health care — especially health care philanthropy. The sky is the limit on what we can accomplish together!
NEWS  /01/28/19
Official guidelines regarding the ethics of grateful patient fundraising
NEWS  /12/05/18
In this season of reflection, I have been thinking a lot about the question of ethics and morals in health care philanthropy as well as about the science of gratitude.

Meet The Author

Alice Ayres
President and CEO
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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