A doctor’s advice is of course extremely important, including his or her opinions on your health and how to proceed with a diagnosed health condition. While such advice is crucial, so is something else from your doctor. A new study has found that a doctor’s empathy toward a patient has a true bearing on how successful a treatment will be. This deserves a closer look.
The quality of the doctor-patient relationship is integral to positive outcomes. A new study has helped illustrate this. Researchers were able to quantify a relationship between physicians’ empathy and their patients’ positive health outcomes. It’s published in the new issue of “Academic Medicine.”
The results show that doctors with high empathy scores had better clinical outcomes than other physicians with lower scores. The study included nearly 900 diabetic patients treated by 29 physicians. Empathy was considered an attribute that involves an understanding and an intention to help.
To measure how a physician’s empathy impacted a diabetic patient’s treatment, the researchers measured blood glucose and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. The idea was that empathy would be associated with better control over these levels.
Researchers found the likelihood of good control was significantly greater in patients whose doctors had high empathy scores. As well, the likelihood of poor control was significantly lower in these same patients. This went for both blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
The conclusion is that a doctor’s empathy with patients can contribute to patient satisfaction, trust, and compliance — which make treatment outcomes more successful. Once confirmed, these findings might show that empathy should be part of every doctor’s relationships. With doctors overworked and overloaded with patients, this sort of thing is easily overlooked.
But now we know that it is clinically important. So feel free to be open and discuss this with your doctor, with the idea that you consider it important for your treatment’s success. An open relationship with one’s doctor is very important, so along with your next check-up or prescription note, check to see his or her thoughts on empathy. And about the doctor-patient relationship in general.