Home » News » Caregiver Empathy Improves Outcomes

Caregiver Empathy Improves Outcomes

A new study suggests simple displays of empathy by a medical provider can help improve medical care.

Researchers found that clinical empathy enhances patient satisfaction with care, motivates individuals to adhere to treatment plans and lowers malpractice complaints.

The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

“Empathy is the ability to understand another’s experience, to communicate and confirm that understanding with the other person and to then act in a helpful manner,” writes Dr. Robert Buckman.

“Despite some overlap with other compassionate responses, particularly sympathy, empathy is distinct.”

In clinical practice, physicians do not express empathic responses frequently.

In a recent study where oncologists were video-recorded speaking with their patients, oncologists only responded to 22 percent of moments thought to be an empathic opportunity.

Another more recent study involving oncologists and lung cancer patients showed the physicians responding to only 11 percent of empathic opportunities.

There is new evidence indicating that empathy is an important medical tool and it can be acquired and taught in medical school.

“Clinical empathy is an essential medical skill that can be taught and improved, thereby producing changes in physician behaviour and patient outcomes.”

“Our profession now needs to incorporate the teaching of clinical empathy more widely into clinical practice at all levels beginning with the selection of candidates for medical school,” write the authors.

“The behavioral aspects of empathy — the empathic response — can be assessed and integrated into medical schools’ core communication skills training.”

The authors conclude that physicians must also model an empathetic approach to patient care in the teaching environment.

Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal

Caregiver Empathy Improves Outcomes

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Caregiver Empathy Improves Outcomes. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 16, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.