There is an evidence-based scientific foundation for studying empathy as an important factor in patients’ health.
Dr. Mohammodieza Hojat and a multidisciplinary team at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia have previously published 5 articles validating an objective and reproducible measure of empathy exhibited by physicians in the context of medical education and patient care. They hypothesized that a physician’s empathy would positively effect clinical outcome, not just patient satisfaction.
To test their theory, they chose patients with diabetes, a chronic disease that requires frequent engagement between patient and doctor, much patient education and communication as well as strict compliance to designated treatment protocols. Moreover, there are definable and easily measurable indicators of improved clinical outcomes. Appropriate statistical controls were used to separate the effect of empathy from other know determinants of outcome such as gender, age and socioeconomic status.
They followed 891 diabetic patients for 3 years and conclusively showed that physicians’ empathy itself resulted in a 40-50% improvement in the measured results. Finally, in their concluding remarks, the researchers acknowledged any limitations to their methodology, but stated that their results do provide sufficient evidence warranting replication of this line of investigation at other institutions and with a variety of diseases…