The theoretical link between empathy and positive patient outcomes is based on three assumptions: When empathic engagement is formed, (a) the constraints of relationship will vanish, leading to a more accurate diagnosis, (b) the clinician becomes a trusting attachment figure and serves as a secure base from which to explore the unknowns of illness and the uncertainty of the future, and (c) the patient perceives the clinician as a helping member of a social support system with all the beneficial health effects of human connection. This chapter presents research findings on clinician–patient relationships in general and on empathic engagement in patient care in particular, in support of the following positive clinical outcomes: patients’ greater satisfaction with their health care providers, better compliance with their physician’s advice and a firmer commitment to the treatment plan, and a reduced likelihood of malpractice litigation. Further empirical con- firmation is needed to support a direct link between measures of empathy and some objective indicators of patient outcomes.
KeywordsPatient Relationship Empathic Concern Social Support System Malpractice Claim Interpersonal Style
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