Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Saturday, August 3, 2013

It turns out empathy can be taught

By Craig Dowden
Special to Financial Post
Originally published July 7, 2013

There has been increased emphasis on empathy in the field of medicine in recent years. Empathy, it turns out, is directly related to key outcomes of interest to medical observers, including improved patient satisfaction, better patient adherence to proposed treatments, and increased well-being in doctors (including lower burnout). It has also been linked to a reduction in errors by doctors and fewer malpractice claims. As a consequence, the desire to enhance empathy in doctors is not only a noble and laudable goal, but also a valuable one from a bottom-line perspective.

Seeing the profound significance of empathy in medical settings, Dr. Helen Riess, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, set out to explore whether it was possible to bring about observable improvements in physician empathy. Drawing on Daniel Goleman’s work in the area of emotional intelligence, as well as elements of the neuroscience of empathy, Dr. Riess designed and implemented an empathy training program for physicians.

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