Importance of empathy for a strong doctor-patient relationship

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Importance of empathy for a strong doctor-patient relationship

In the recent years, empathy has gained importance as it is a crucial component of an effective communication. It is an experiential way of grasping another's emotional states. It is a “perceptual” activity that works alongside the logical inquiry. In the clinical aspect, it is the physician’s ability to understand patients’ emotions that can facilitate more accurate diagnoses and more caring and effective treatment. This varies from sympathy, or sharing patients’ emotions, which instead can impede objective diagnosis and effective treatment.

The medical diagnosis should be amplified, but diminished as long as  the physicians continue to exercise their knowledge and skills of objective reasoning to explore their empathic intuitions. Also, the treatment will be more effective as the communication and trust between  patient-physician will improve.

The patients prefer more to stay and refer to a clinic if the physician is kind hearted, caring and considerate towards them. The causes of bad reviews or malpractice lawsuits by patients is due to the the dcotor being  too clinical, hard nosed or inconsiderate. Besides, empathy is not a skill that is generally taught, but the manner instructions.

According to Kasley Killam writing for Greater Good, empathy has far reaching advantages. When patients perceive that they connect on common ground with the physician, they have better recovery rates. Patients seldom verbalize their emotional concerns outright, and when they do, their doctors often do not acknowledge the concerns. Empathy can counteract this issue, help doctors do their job well, and even buffer against physician burnout. Accorrding to JAMA research, it can lessen the malpractise claims too.

“People tend to believe that you are either born with empathy or not, but empathy can be taught, and you can improve“,  said Dr. Helen Riess, of the Dept of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.The three main tips as to build empathy and connection with the patients are as follows:

Time is the key

Realizing the importance of time is perhaps the most arduous challenge of being a doctor. Usually, this leads to running from patient to patient with a hurried attitude. As per an article by NPR, this causes patients to feel like doctors are attentive or interested in them. About 3 out of 5 patients think their doctors are rushing through exams in a poll by the Harvard School of Public Health.
The whole conversation becomes more calm and meaningful if the doctor just takes a minute or two in the beginning or end of the appointment to be present with the patient as a person.

 Eye contact

A proper eye contact with the person makes conection. It might be an evident detail, but it is astonishing how much it can be overlooked, particularly in a technology driven, fast paced environment. Eye contact between clinician and patient will be positively related to patient ratings of liking and connectedness. Therefore, remembering to look at your patients even for a minute or two moves them into a better connected state of mind.

 Asking for a feedback

A very significant part of the human connection is giving the patient the chance to share their thoughts and opinions. Every person who comes into a doctors office has their own thoughts, feelings and past experiences, all kept inside. If the doctor listens to them, they feel validated and listened to. More and more research is arising to show that using skills like empathy not only reduces patient anxiety, but also improves clinical outcomes and lessen the malpractice claims.

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