Empathy and Patient Outcomes
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The theoretical link between empathy and positive patient outcomes is based on the following assumptions: When an empathic engagement is formed, then a trusting relationship will develop, the constraints of relationship will diminish, and this will lead to a more accurate diagnosis and greater compliance.
In an empathic engagement, the patient perceives the clinician as a helping member of a social support system with all the beneficial health effects of human connection. All of these should theoretically contribute to optimal patient outcomes, including patients’ greater satisfaction with their health care providers, a reduced likelihood of malpractice litigation, and more optimal clinical results.
Research findings, showing significant associations between scores of a validated measure of physician’s empathy and tangible patient outcomes in diabetic patients, present strong evidence in support of the link between the health care provider’s empathy and clinical outcomes, independent of patients’ subjective assessments.
The psychosocial and biophysioneurological factors involved in interactions between a clinician and the patient are described as the plausible underlying mechanisms that can explain the link between clinician’s empathy and patient outcomes.
KeywordsClinical outcomes Patient outcomes Clinician–patient relationships Patient satisfaction Adherence Compliance Malpractice
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