Empathy Improves Adherence and Boosts Satisfaction Scores

While so many healthcare organizations search for the Holy Grail of improved outcomes, it turns out one solution is right in front of them. Provider empathy has been demonstrated as a key factor in patient likelihood of following the treatment plan.

As indicated in a study published in the September 2012 issue of Academic Medicine, patients of physicians with high empathy scores had better clinical outcomes than patients of other physicians with lower scores. Further, a previous study the year before measured how a physician’s empathy impacted diabetic patients’ treatment outcomes. The study showed a direct association between a higher physician Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) score and a better control of patients’ hemoglobin A1c and cholesterol level.

What does this mean for the typical provider? An easy to remember phrase, spoken after the patient has described the chief complaint or any problem is, “I’m sorry to hear that.” Said sincerely, the phrase conveys a caring attitude toward the patient’s situation. Other equally effective statements include, “That must be tough (or frustrating) for you”, or “I can understand why you’d be worried.”

Patients want to believe that they truly matter as individuals to their doctors. Simple gestures of empathy establish a caring connection that result in greater compliance and ultimately better outcomes.