Patient-rated physician empathy and patient satisfaction during pain clinic consultations

  • Sarah Walsh
  • Aoife O’Neill
  • Ailish Hannigan
  • Dominic HarmonEmail author
Original Article



Little is known about the influence of patient-perceived healthcare provider empathy on patient satisfaction in the setting of a hospital pain clinic consultation. The objective of this research was to examine the relationship between patient-rated physician empathy and patient satisfaction after a single new pain clinic consultation.


After institutional ethics committee approval, a sample of 140 adult patients completed a two-page questionnaire, directly after a pain clinic consultation. This included a brief sociodemographic questionnaire, the Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) measure and an overall satisfaction rating.


The sample, N = 140 patients, was balanced for gender and 80% of participants ranged in age from 30 to 70. Of these patients, 80.7% had been living with chronic pain between 1 and 5 years. The data were deemed to be non-parametric and a Spearman’s ranked order correlation analysis yielded a strong positive correlation between patient-rated physician empathy and patient consultation satisfaction.


Patient-rated physician empathy was strongly correlated with patient satisfaction in a pain clinic consultation. Patient satisfaction plays a significant role in adherence to treatment and contributes to a positive working patient-physician therapeutic relationship. This research supports the growing body of research citing the importance of investing in, promoting and developing educational programs for physicians and medical trainees to enhance empathic communication skills within the clinical setting.


Communication Empathy Pain clinic Patient satisfaction 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Walsh
    • 1
  • Aoife O’Neill
    • 1
  • Ailish Hannigan
    • 1
  • Dominic Harmon
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Graduate Entry Medical SchoolUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  2. 2.Department of Anesthesia and Pain MedicineLimerick University HospitalLimerickIreland

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