Empathy As An Outcome?

Teenage Girl Visits Doctor's Office Suffering With Depression

A new study showed that “Empathic responses to patients’ expressions of negative emotion were associated with decreases in patient anxiety and higher patient ratings of the hospitalist and encounter.”  Well, there you have it. So, they have proven that empathy is good to have. No kidding. Here is the interesting part. If empathy decreases anxiety (an empathic response was associated with a 1.65 point decrease on the State Anxiety Scale (95% CI, 0.48-2.82) then shouldn’t we be grading doctors on this?  And shouldn’t we be giving bonuses to those that are the most empathetic?  Yes, that sounds ridiculous but this is the type of moronic methodology that administrators love to use.

“Sorry, doctor, the cameras in the room showed you to be to aloof”, says the adminibot.

“But I was trying to click all the buttons you wanted in the chart”, responds the doctor.

“Not good enough.  You need to look empathetic when staring at the computer.  You will lose 2% of your salary this year”.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  4 comments for “Empathy As An Outcome?

  1. Perry
    March 14, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    So, if we start paying attention to the patient, how’s the poor computer going to feel?

  2. Steve O'
    March 14, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Tom, you left out the oldest profession – prostitution. The ability to feign intimate interest in another person is certainly a performance measure in prostitution. Published reports on prostitution mention that sexual contact is not always what is sought by the ‘john,’ but simply a human connection.
    Interestingly, Abraham Flexner, he of the Flexner Report that revolutionized American Medical Education, turned his next inquiry to Prostitution In Europe ( https://books.google.com/books/about/Prostitution_in_Europe.html?id=tScKAAAAIAAJ ). From recollection, he spent a number of years in Europe away from Mrs. Flexner, studying the subject. After having read the initial few chapters, I am awestruck by Flexner’s ability to make sex paralytically boring.
    Genuine empathy – genuine mirroring of affect with a sense of closeness – is a matter of deepest individuality and humanity. It is no surprise that the “pimps” of modern medicine have also discovered the ability to feign empathy in their “stable.”
    I suggest that genuine empathy coupled with professional expertise are not performance measures of medicine – they ARE medicine, from which all else derives. And these performance measure have been driven from the field of today’s medicine.
    Soon, we will replace human intimacy with on-line pornography, not only literally but metaphorically. We will have a “medicine” that stimulates but does not heal.

    • Pat
      March 14, 2016 at 8:23 am

      Prostitution is more honest than medicine, a straight up transparent exchange. Now if a prostitution insurance industry develops, followed by some claiming a “right” to sexual gratification, leading to the development of federal programs to pay for sex workers for the elderly (and then for the poor, supposedly at the state level)…costs will skyrocket, hookers’ incomes will fall, and shortages will follow. As for quality…I don’t want to think about it. I suppose the high-dollar, experienced escorts could be replaced in underserved areas by replacements from weekend courses, if the outcomes were usually similar for mostbcommon client requests.

  3. Thomas Guastavino, MD
    March 14, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Actually empathy is simply the ability to tap into and understand the emotions of others. It can be used for good or evil. Con artists, philanderers and evil dictators are all empathic. So what physicians need to do is be emphatic toward there employers and give them what they want by whatever means possible.

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