Research

Low-empathy doctors linked to excess hospital admissions

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Patients who are treated with empathy and compassion trust their doctors, are more likely to follow advice, take their medication, adopt healthy lifestyle changes, and feel empowered to manage their own chronic health conditions. But until now, we didn’t know just how dangerous is medical practice lacking in empathy.

In a landmark study of 21,000 diabetic patients in Italy, those patient who rated their primary care doctors as lacking in empathy had 70% more admissions to hospital in 2009, for the treatment of life-threatening diabetic crisis (compared to patient with high-empathy doctors).

And who rated the doctors’ level of empathy? The patients themselves.

Experience might suggest that female doctors, older doctors, and those who had known their patients for a long time might score higher for empathy – and reduced complications. But this research showed that hospital admissions were not correlated with any of these factors, nor with patients’ gender, type of practice (solo, association), and geographical location of practice (mountain, hills, plain).

It seems that empathy is an independent factor of physician performance but one that can be enhanced with training.

For further details of the study, read here.

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