Understanding people, not just science, is crucial to being a good physician. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, or in other words, to put yourself in their shoes. It expresses the desire to understand and to help, and is imperative to establishing a trusting relationship.

The way people feel about the healthcare they receive has become a focal point for improvement among care providers. In fact, the newest studies report that patient-perceived physician empathy greatly improves both outcomes and medical care satisfaction.

One recent study determined that patient satisfaction was not changed by wait time for an appointment, wait time in the office, time with the doctor, whether or not patients were seeking a second opinion, health literacy, or treatment choice. It was the doctor’s perceived empathy that affected satisfaction in 65% of the participants.

Oftentimes, doctors respond to distressed patients by giving more and more factual information, but in reality, that generally does little to alleviate their worries. Physicians who desire to fix things must understand the importance of learning to listen first. Amazingly, one study found that doctors, on average, interrupt a patient within 18 seconds.

Empathy comes naturally to some people, but it can also be taught. Medical training doesn’t require it, but the interest in it is expanding, as its importance is becoming recognized as essential for providing compassionate care. Doctors can increase their patients’ satisfaction through a few simple steps:

  • Reduced defensiveness
  • Improved listening skills
  • Awareness of facial expressions and body language
  • Increased patient feedback

Of course it’s vital not just for the physician, but also for the doctor’s staff to be skilled and trained in effective communication and customer service.

There are many additional benefits that a doctor reaps through understanding and practicing more empathetic communications. It’s clearly self-rewarding through positive patient feedback and outcomes, and is helpful in combating physician burnout.

Additionally, many malpractice cases that began due to a lack of empathy and poor communications could often have been avoided. After all, a medical care experience is only good if the patient agrees that it is.

At Spine & Orthopedic Center, we know how important it is to listen to you, and we value your important feedback.  Our caring staff strives to make every office visit a great medical care experience. If you would like to experience our exceptional dedication to our patients’ satisfaction, as well as their good health, please call or visit Spine & Orthopedic Center today for more information.