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Enough About Physician Empathy

Is anyone else tired of hearing about how important empathy is in the doctor-patient relationship? Every other day it seems a new study is talking about the therapeutic value of empathy. Enough already!

It’s not that I don’t believe that empathy is important — I do. I also believe the data that links physician empathy with improved patient outcomes, increased satisfaction, and better patient experiences.

A recent study released in Academic Medicine reported that “patients of physicians with high empathy scores were significantly more likely to have good control over their blood sugar as well as cholesterol, while the inverse was true for patients of physicians with low scores.”

Findings from this study by Hojat, et al. are consistent with a 2009 study by Rakel, et al. which found that among patients with the common cold, those with physicians displaying high empathy had a significantly shorter duration of illness and trend toward lesser severity of illness and higher levels of immune response compared to those patients whose physician displayed less empathy. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

The Best Social Tool For Doctors And Patients

We all want technology to improve communication between doctors and patients. We fantasize that social tools will open doors and bridge the expanding divide between doctors and patients.

I’m wondering if it’s a case of unicorns and rainbows: Fancy new tools to do the old thing in a less-effective way. I’m guessing that if Facebook was the old platform for doctor-patient dialog and the telephone was invented this year, everyone would be clamoring to use the phone (“Dude, this is amazing…you can hear them talk.”)

I like the telephone. Written copy misses intonation, timing, pitch, and all the other rich elements of human speech. Subtle changes in a parent’s voice tell me if I’ve made my point and exactly how I need to proceed [with caring for their child]. Unspoken words on a screen are so one-dimensional.

Of course, email has a tightly-defined place in patient communication. And real-time social interaction between patient and clinic will evolve to have a clear role in patient care. But for now, the phone remains one of the most effective tools for helping doctor and patient really understand one another.

[Image credit: Cemagraphics]

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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