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Doctors should make their empathy more overt

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This piece in Medscape argues:

“Doctors If you work in a hospital, an outpatient practice owned by a hospital, or an independent practice, or if you are a member of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), training in how to empathically communicate with patients may be in your future. That’s because the traditional paradigm for good bedside manner—detached concern—is now being viewed by insurers, health plans, and hospital systems as being too detached, when surveys show that patients want more interpersonal connectedness with and trust in their physicians. ”

James A. Tulsky, M.D., chairman of the Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care at the Dana­Farber Cancer Institute and chief of the Division of Palliative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, told Medscape that most physicians are  empathetic.

“I think that’s the reason they go into medicine. They care about other people.”

“The question, ” he says, is “whether patients know that their doctors are feeling that empathy, and whether doctors are able to express that to a patient in such a way that the patient feels supported. That’s the issue. The question is not about whether doctors lose empathy or whether one needs to unlock empathy.”

Benefits of a more patient-centric, visibly empathetic approach include: sharpening diagnostic skills, improving patient compliance — and  thus outcomes — higher job satisfaction and reduced chances of being sued for malpractice.





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