Attuned Care = Safer Care


Each one-point increase on a scale that measured depersonalization — a feeling of withdrawal or of treating patients as objects rather than as human beings — was associated with an 11 percent increase in the likelihood of reporting an error. Each one-point increase on a scale measuring emotional exhaustion was associated with a 5 percent increase.

Annals of Surgery

You probably know death certificates don’t record when a person dies from a medical error.  Still, with surprising frequency, medical errors in various forms including communication break-downs lead to death, near misses and complications, not to mention human suffering.

Patient harm from medical error can occur at the individual or system level

Significantly, we in healthcare are getting better at understanding how communication breakdowns, and misattunement can directly result in patient harm and death. Nonetheless, we spend just a fraction of our healthcare budgets on building skills and accountability to eliminate ineffective human interactions which lead to medical error.


We imagine a day when highly attuned relationships will be an expected part of high quality medical care. Picture this: relationship-based cultures which honor the human dignity of each person. Clinicians meet and connect intentionally with teammates, patients and families. Partnership replaces hierarchy.

Some people criticize relational aspects of medical care as a “needless luxury”.  We teach people how to attune. It is remarkable how quickly people learn this skill when we de-mystify it. Moreover, the learning spreads.  Very quickly we see people model the behaviors, thus, creating a culture in which attuned and caring communication is an expected norm.