Bedside manners: How empathy and the health care system interact

Increased emphasis on empathy in the health care system holds big benefits for doctors and patients alike, medical experts say.

Training doctors to be more empathetic can be tricky, said Danielle Ofri, a physician at Bellevue Hospital and associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, but she maintains that training health care professionals in the skill is a key part in not just boosting patient satisfaction, but also adding meaning to a chaotic system….

Helping patients feel comfortable by asking about their family or giving them time to explain their concerns is quickly becoming an essential part of medical practice, said Helen Riess, director of the empathy and relational science program at Massachusetts General Hospital and chief scientific officer for Empathetics, an organization that provides empathy and interpersonal skills training for health care providers.

She said the focus on empathy is driven by health system leaders, who have a lot of money at stake in patient satisfaction scores.