​“How can I thank you?”, said a grateful patient recovering from a recent illness to his doctor. “Don’t worry about it, I’m just doing my job,” replied the doctor. 

This common exchange between a physician and patient who wishes to express his gratitude for the care and concern received is not unique to Singapore.   It also happens in the United States, as participants at a recent Clinician Involvement in Philanthropy Programme (CIPP) found out.   Knowing how to respond to this gratitude lies the key to unlocking the potential of grateful patient giving. 

The CIPP aims to shape mindsets that clinicians play a key role in grateful patient philanthropy.   In addition, it lays the foundation for stronger partnerships between medical staff and development officers to facilitate more major gifts in support of our Academic Medicine goals. 

Over two days in May 2014, Mr Chad Gobel from the Gobel Group met with more than 50 clinicians and 30 development officers to share the motivation and psyche behind giving from grateful patients.   A US-based philanthropic consulting firm, Gobel Group works with hospitals and health systems to engage physicians to build patient philanthropy programmes.

Key Learning Points

Understanding the patient’s perspective

Patients and their family members can be a major source of hospital philanthropy.   This is because they are often deeply touched by their care provider, the genuine care and concern they received or their life-altering experiences.

Through giving, patients and families are merely ‘rebalancing’ the relationship.   A simple analogy to illustrate this concept - when a good friend goes out of his way to do something for you, you feel like you want to thank him, give him a small gift in appreciation.

By giving, it provides the chance for patients to be a part of something bigger than they can accomplish alone.   They may feel that they are helping to fight the disease that had affected them and their families.

The act of giving helps bring patients closure to a difficult time of their lives as they find meaning by creating a legacy for life.

Giving is a part of the healing process; a natural extension of the work of physicians.

The central role of the clinician

In hospital philanthropy, the relationships with prospective donors are usually formed first with and by the physician.

When grateful patients give, they do so primarily because of the clinician.   When grateful patients express interest in the clinician’s work or his research priorities, the doctor is the best person to share information about the objectives of initiatives, outcomes and areas that need support.

Clinicians play a central role in facilitating the giving process.   Apart from identifying extraordinarily grateful patients who have the propensity to give, they connect these patients to the development officers either through informal in-person introductions or through communication channels such as the phone, letters or emails.

Acknowledging the patient’s intent to give back is crucial.   The worst case that can happen is that patients who wish to show their gratitude feel rejected, dismissed and not respected when an inappropriate response is given.

To find out more, email giving@singhealth.com.sg

​Grateful patients have the potential to give