A research study reported by Thomas Jefferson University Jefferson Medical College reports that when patients perceive their healthcare providers as showing  empathy, they become healthier.  Diabetes was actually seen to be controlled better than when these patients saw doctors that they perceived as cold and uncaring.  This medical condition was chosen because control of the disease is often directly related to patient actions and lifestyle changes.

Nine hundred subjects were used in the study and saw 29 doctors who had been ranked on a grade of empathy.  Those who consulted with providers having a higher score, had improved maintenance of LDL cholesterol levels and hemoglobin A1c showing that control of this condition  was attributed to empathy as a “unique and significant contributor” .

Richard Wender, MD, professor and chair of the department of family and community medicine at Jefferson Medical College and joint author of the study buying ventolin inhalers online feels that this is quite significant.  Dr. Wender explains the results as  due to the following:

  1. Empathy might establish a higher level of trust and confidence between doctor and patient and thus encourage the patient to follow a treatment plan.
  2. Empathetic doctors might be better at assessing patient barriers to care and adjust their communications accordingly.
  3. Empathetic doctors might feel more responsible to patients and could work harder to achieve goals.

Roland Goertz, MD, president of AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) feels that “it’s a communication issue. He ”thinks empathy- minded physicians communicate better.”

Although we have often seen an association between patient satisfaction and physician “caring”, this is the first study that actually shows the association to actual medical outcomes.

The next study according to Dr. Wender is to tackle the issue of Cancer and patients’ attitudes.

The study is available here.