Designing for Clinical Empathy: How can health systems use clinical empathy to support patients?

This is the first of a series on Designing for Clinical Empathy,

An over of clinical empathy, how it can influence patient outcomes for the better and being implemented in different types of care systems.

Clinical Empathy

What this comes down to is a concept called clinical empathy, defined as “a cognitive attribute that involves an ability to understand the patient’s inner experiences and perspective and a capability to communicate this understanding.”

Clinical empathy has been linked to improved outcomes for patients with diabetes, colds, and depression. Yet many patients don’t experience it in their healthcare encounters: one study found that doctors interrupt patients within an average of 18 seconds.

To understand why, we must also empathize with doctors. In the 1950s and 60s, medical journals began spreading a concept called ‘neutral empathy,’ based on detached reasoning. They argued that truly experiencing the patient’s pain could bias decisions. In a 1963 article, “Training for Detached Concern,”