Diabetes Patients Fare Better With Empathetic Doctors

Patients of more empathetic doctors have lower hemoglobin A1c and LDL cholesterol levels

THURSDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with diabetes whose physicians are more empathetic are more likely to have improved clinical outcomes, according to a study published in the March issue of Academic Medicine.

Mohammadreza Hojat, Ph.D., of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and colleagues investigated the link between physicians' empathy and clinical outcomes among patients with diabetes. Data on the most recent hemoglobin A1c and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels were retrieved from the electronic records of 891 patients with diabetes and were categorized into good or poor control. The 29 treating physicians completed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy, and were categorized as high, moderate, and low empathy scorers. The association between the doctors' level of empathy and patients' clinical outcomes were assessed.

The researchers found that patients were significantly more likely to have good control of their hemoglobin A1c and LDL-C levels if their physicians were high empathy scorers. Physicians' empathy was an independent predictor of optimal clinical outcomes after controlling for confounders, including physicians' and patients' gender and age, and patients' health insurance.

"Confirmation of the hypothesis that physicians' empathy is associated with positive clinical outcomes suggests that empathy should be viewed as an integral component of physician competence," the authors write.

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