The Healing Power of Empathy

Showing empathy to patients improves quality of care

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Empathy is a useful tool for improving care, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study found that when health care professionals express empathy to their patients they can reduce malpractice claims, get patients to adhere to their treatment plans, and improve patient satisfaction of their overall care.

According to Dr. Robert Buckman, of Princess Margaret Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, empathy is the ability to understand the experience of another, to communicate and validate that understanding with the other individual, and then to take measures to help.

Recent studies - which gauged so-called "empathetic opportunities" in interactions between physician and patients - found that oncologists responded to only 11 to 22 percent of empathetic opportunities.

In light of this recent evidence that shows the benefits of clinical empathy, Dr. Buckman and others believe that empathy is a skill that should be taught and honed in medical schools.

As the number of things a physician has to remember increases, they often lose sight of the aspects of being human. If medical schools improve empathetic tendencies in their students, then more physicians will take into account a very important side of patient care: the stresses and fears associated with illness.

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Review Date: 
January 25, 2011
Last Updated:
January 26, 2011