188 | 30, pp. 187-210 | doxa.comunicación

January-June of 2020

Communicating the humanisation of hospital care. An exercise in social responsibility in Madrid’s hospitals

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

1. Introduction

In October 1984 the National Institute of Health of Spain (INSALUD) set in motion the first Plan for the Humanisation of Hospital Care. This plan, which was first implemented in 15 hospitals, was based on a proven fact: “sickness creates, in patients as well as in their families and social environments, a situation of selflessness that makes them feel powerless, for which they need a health care as human as possible” (Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs, 1984:19). Since then, Spanish hospitals have adopted different measures in order to optimize hospital care, with uneven results.

Thirty-two years later, in 2016, the Department of Health of the Community of Madrid implemented the Health Care Humanisation Plan in response to a discouraging scenario: “sadly there is a sense of dehumanisation and depersonalization in health care” (General Sub-directorate for the Humanisation of Health Care, 2016:25).

This four year plan presents the humanisation of health care as the best way to address the relationship between hospitals and patients and their relatives. And it also points out the importance of communication as the most efficient strategy to better that relationship.

Humanisation and its communication affect the whole health care system. However, hospitals are the most complex organizations within the Healthcare Standards, due to their structures as well as their relationships. And patients and their families are an audience of special interest for the hospital, because of their direct interaction with numerous professionals: physicians, nurses, lab technicians, assistants, customer service personnel, clerks, waiters, cleaning staff, among others. For this reason hospitals will be the focus of our paper.

Patients and their families, however, are not the only audience of a hospital. Hospitals, especially public ones, are organizations that concern all citizens, although many have never needed to be attended to in a hospital facility. Also,

Madrid, which serve as a qualitative sample, and to explore the perception that healthcare professionals have of it. To this end, we take as our starting point the Plan for the Humanisation of Health Care presented by the Consejeria de Salud [Regional Department of Health] in 2016. The results of the documentary analysis, in-depth interviews with those responsible for humanisation in four hospitals and focus groups with doctors and nurses show that the humanisation process is uneven in these hospitals in Madrid, that communication is an essential tool in order to achieve its goals, and the need to optimize.


Humanisation; hospital communication; social and health responsibility; excellent public relations; healthcare; patient centered care.

de la Comunidad de Madrid, que sirven de muestra cualitativa, y explorar la percepción que tienen sobre ella los profesionales sani-tarios. Para ello, tomamos como punto de partida el Plan de Hu-manización de la atención sanitaria presentado por la Consejería de Sanidad en 2016. Los resultados del análisis documental, las entrevistas en profundidad a los responsables de humanización de estos hospitales, y los grupos de discusión con médicos y personal de enfermería, revelan que el proceso de humanización se presenta dis-par en dichos hospitales madrileños, que la comunicación constitu-ye una herramienta fundamental para alcanzar sus objetivos, y la necesidad de optimizar las acciones comunicativas para conseguir los mejores resultados.

Palabras clave:

Humanización, comunicación hospitalaria, responsabilidad social sociosanitaria, relaciones públicas excelentes, atención sanitaria, atención centrada en el paciente.