What can physicians do to increase empathy about the health of populations?

As physicians, we are charged with extending empathy to our patients. In addition to a professional responsibility, empathy is also a mechanism for improving patient care and professional satisfaction.

 

It has been associated with better patient satisfaction, clinical outcomes, fewer medical errors and lawsuits, as well as provider happiness. However, while physicians can be expected to pursue the ideal of empathy towards individual patients, that of empathizing with populations is more challenging. As the old saying goes, a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.

LIANG CHEN, MD
SANDRO GALEA, MD, MPH, DP