Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Patients Wonder: 'Could This Be Something Serious?' Doctors Who Express Empathy Get Highest Patient Ratings

Date:
January 2, 2008
Source:
University of Rochester Medical Center
Summary:
Nearly 4,800 patient surveys and 100 covertly recorded visits by actors posing as patients revealed that empathy is lacking in many exam rooms around the Rochester, N.Y., area -- however, doctors who do convey empathy are viewed as more trustworthy.

Nearly 4,800 patient surveys and 100 covertly recorded visits by actors posing as patients revealed that empathy is lacking in many exam rooms around the Rochester, N.Y., area. However, doctors who do convey empathy are viewed as more trustworthy.

The study, led by Ronald Epstein, M.D., professor of Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is published in the December Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Epstein and colleagues observed how doctors responded when patients asked loaded questions indicating worry about symptoms involving chest pain. The study builds on previous work by Epstein's group, in which they have described how good communication between doctors and patients, and a willingness to explore concerns, results in improved health care and lower costs.

An analysis of the doctor-patient interactions showed that doctors voiced empathy in only 15 percent of the office visits, even after repeated prompting by the patients.

"I think this study supports the notion that 'mindfulness' is an essential clinical skill," said Epstein, who also directs Rochester's Center to Improve Communications in Health Care. "Mindfulness helps the doctor understand the patient's world to a sufficient degree, so that no matter what the doctor's personal style is, he or she can express empathy."

The research began with 100 consenting doctors (47 family physicians and 53 general internists) in the greater Rochester area in 2001-2002. The doctors agreed to receive two unannounced visits over a one-year period by actors trained to portray patients in a realistic and uniform way. The actors would record the visits without the doctors' knowledge. Meanwhile, the research team also collected 10-minute surveys from real adult patients in a variety of doctors' waiting rooms. About 96 percent of the all patients approached agreed to take the survey, yielding 4,746 completed questionnaires.

The actors portrayed two roles. They all claimed to be new patients, 48 years old, with chest pain. Some described their pain as characteristic of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), while others presented more ambiguous chest pain, poorly characterized. They all took part in standard, 15-to-20-minute acute visits.

Researchers trained the actors to deliver prompts that might elicit empathy, such as "Do you think this could be something serious?" Or to say something like, "You hear a lot about cancer and heart disease, and I was worried about that."

They used the patient surveys from the waiting rooms and transcripts of the audio-recorded exams to evaluate the doctors' responses. Researchers characterized the responses by type, frequency, pattern, and communication style, and correlated them with patient satisfaction ratings. They also looked for signs that doctors doled out empty reassurances, were dismissive, or made statements that served as conversation-stoppers.

The most common physician response was a simple acknowledgement of the symptoms, followed by biomedical questions or medical explanations. Later, some physicians reassured the patients and suggested diagnostic tests, medications, or other treatments. Surprisingly, reassurance from the doctor sometimes increased patient anxiety, the study said.

Patients reported the most satisfaction when doctors empathized with them in challenging situations, such as when the medical answer was not clear-cut, the study said.

Few studies have noted that empathy makes a difference in health care, Epstein said. The research also spotlighted nuances about communication and behavior, such as whether the timing of empathetic statements is important, and how long it takes to voice empathy in the context of a typical office visit.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funded the study. Co-authors from the University of Rochester Medical Center are: Taj Hadee, M.D., M.P.H., department fellow, Family Medicine; Jennifer Carroll, M.D., M.P.H., research assistant professor, Family Medicine; Sean C. Meldrum, M.S., statistician and associate, Family Medicine; Judi Larder, B.S., research assistant, Family Medicine; and Cleveland Shields, Ph.D., of the Purdue University Relationships in Healthcare Research Program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rochester Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Rochester Medical Center. "Patients Wonder: 'Could This Be Something Serious?' Doctors Who Express Empathy Get Highest Patient Ratings." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071204105543.htm>.
University of Rochester Medical Center. (2008, January 2). Patients Wonder: 'Could This Be Something Serious?' Doctors Who Express Empathy Get Highest Patient Ratings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071204105543.htm
University of Rochester Medical Center. "Patients Wonder: 'Could This Be Something Serious?' Doctors Who Express Empathy Get Highest Patient Ratings." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071204105543.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins