Clinical empathy: Giving a human touch to healthcare encounters
Medical practitioners learning and applying techniques that foster emotional connection with patients are achieving better results
July 06, 2019
The medical sector is changing in this new age, not only with respect to technological advancements but also due to more and more practitioners adopting ‘clinical empathy’. Grumpy doctors reprimanding patients is a thing of past; medical centres and independent practitioners are moving past the money-making aspect of healthcare, offering the patients with holistic medical aid.
For the uninitiated, the term ‘clinical empathy’ refers to the skill of comprehending what a patient says and feels, and effectively communicating this understanding to the patient.
Doctors behaving emotionally indifferent towards patients is a cliché now. An increasing number of medical practitioners now prefer developing a healthy relationship with their patients and are not averse to emotions.
Also, medical centres such as Niira Radia’s Nayati Healthcare, Reliance Group’s Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, etc, are promoting clinical empathy among other patient-centric medical practices.
A report by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations revealed that communication failures were a root cause of more than 70 per cent of adverse health outcomes in hospitals. Conversely, studies have also shown that clinical empathy is clearly associated with better patient outcomes.
The patients are not the only ones who benefit from clinical empathy. Medical practitioners have noticed that if they listen carefully and communicate clearly, not only is the patient more likely to adhere better to the plan of care, but the result is less work for the doctors because they get fewer calls and questions from nursing later on.
In words of Dr Nirmal Joshi, Chief Medical Officer at Pinnacle Health System, “Effective communication is just as hard as knowing how to remove a gall bladder or knowing how to care for diabetes, because we are finding that if we don’t communicate as doctors, the incidence of noncompliance is extremely high.”
The adoption of clinical empathy by healthcare providers not only gives a human touch to otherwise apathetic medical encounters, but it also reassures the patients that they are in good hands.