Can Empathy Be As Effective As Aspirin? The Patient-Clinician Relationship Affects Medical Outcomes

Helen Riess discusses her recent study results that suggest that empathy in the doctor-patient relationship has a significant effect on healthcare outcomes. by Helen Riess and Diego Reinero

The patient-clinician relationship is a subject that receives much attention in the news, from patients, medical academics, clinicians, and healthcare focused organizations. However, advances in technology, increasing automaticity, and burnout among medical professionals can often eclipse empathic, person-centered care

The patient-clinician relationship has been shown to affect patient satisfaction, adherence to treatment, and other intermediary measures, but skeptics often question its relevance to “hard” medical outcomes. Supported by a grant from The Gold Foundation, we conducted a study that was published on April 9, 2014 in PLOS ONE.   


General empathy in a meaningful

patient-clinician relationship appears

to improve patient’s  well being,

both emotionally,

and now, physically.