Building Empathy in Healthcare: Kasley Killam and Dr. Helen Riess

Empathy matters for a couple reasons. First, empathy is good for patients. It builds trust, which increases patient satisfaction and compliance. When patients perceive that they connect on common ground with the physician, they have better recovery rates. Second, empathy is good for doctors.

According to research, 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.

However, we have a long way to go before empathy is properly incorporated into everyday practice. As one article observed, “the culture of medicine and of medical training may be such that empathy is under-valued and under-taught.”