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Responding to Gratitude: Engaging Patients and Communities through Referral-Based Medical Philanthropy

AHP Staff
Published:  09/26/2018

Responding to gratitudeAdapted from a 2018 AHP Webinar Series event presented by Bon Secours Richmond Health Care Foundation CEO Cindy Reynolds and Advancement Resources Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships Mark McCampbell

After a positive health care experience and exceptional care, many patients and community members may express gratitude to their care team, but caregivers may not understand how to receive it. It is essential to the health care system that caregivers are equipped with the knowledge and the ability to properly receive and respond to gratitude, with the goal of referring those grateful patients to the hospital’s foundation.

In order to understand referral-based medical philanthropy, it is important to understand the reasons behind clinician reluctance to engage in referrals.

  • Ethics: Many physicians may be reluctant to proceed with the referral because they do not want to inadvertently betray the sacred partnership they have with their patients.
  • Lack of time: Physicians are busy and may not want to put time into referring a patient after the care is complete.
  • Assumption that patients or their families don’t have the money
  • Lack of knowledge: Some physicians simply may not know a philanthropy referral is an option.

Most of these reasons for hesitation stem from the myth that for physicians and other health professionals, fundraising is simply about asking patients for money. With this misconception in mind, clinicians may feel it is disrespectful to ask patients to be involved with fundraising efforts. Additionally, clinician referral is often impeded due to the modesty with which clinicians usually respond to gratitude. Sometimes patients and family members incorrectly interpret this modesty. They may think the clinicians do not feel the care was important or significant. Not only does this eliminate the possibility for clinician referral, but it also damages the clinician-patient relationship.

It’s better for clinicians to respond to gratitude in a gracious manner that keeps the door open for further patient engagement. If clinicians can create a positive experience for their patients and families, possible outcomes include higher patient satisfaction scores, loyalty and return for care, volunteerism and philanthropy.

The Process for Accepting Gratitude

  1. Hear: Listen to what the patient or family member is saying beyond treatment protocol
  2. Accept: Respond and accept gratitude graciously and, if appropriate, ask for details
  3. Reciprocate: Return the gratitude to the patient or family member for allowing you to provide care

After responding to gratitude, the clinician has an opportunity to make a professional referral. It is important for the clinician to recognize they are already inspiring the gratitude that leads to philanthropy. The last step for the clinician is to make an initial referral and the foundation will handle the logistics from there. This also means the clinician must trust the foundation and know the impact of the referral is going to be positive for the patient.

If clinicians successfully follow this approach and trust the foundation at the end of their referral, not only will they be able to accept gratitude appropriately, they will also participate in creating lasting philanthropic partnerships.

To learn more about referral-based medical philanthropy, watch the full webinar here.

NEWS  /12/20/17
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The following article is based on an AHP webinar presented on April 15, 2015, by Thom Harmon, director of leadership gifts at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pa.
NEWS  /08/08/13
Editor’s note: As we prepare for the 2013 AHP International Conference this October in Toronto, Ontario

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