Learning Medicine is One Thing, Learning Empathy is Another

July 6, 2012 | Crandall & Pera Law
Learning Medicine is One Thing, Learning Empathy is Another

Greater physician empathy has been associated with fewer medical errors, better patient outcomes and fewer malpractice claims, according to The New York Times.

But the question remains: after the "dehumanizing effects" of medical training, is it possible for physicians to learn empathy?

The answer is yes, according to Dr. Helen Riess, director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, who created a series of "training modules" that are "designed to teach methods for recognizing key nonverbal clues and facial expressions in patients as well as strategies for dealing with one's own physiologic responses to highly emotional encounters."

Responses to the study have been enthusiastic so far, with doctors using the learned behaviors to more effectively interact with patients, true evaluators.

"People tend to believe that you are either born with empathy or not," said Dr. Helen Riess. "But empathy can be taught, and you can improve." Read the full details here:

Can Doctors Learn Empathy?

Steve Crandall, a top rated medical malpractice attorney in Ohio and Kentucky, believes this research underscores what the New England Journal of Medicine studied long ago: that the majority of lawsuits are as a result of poor physician bedside manner.

"It's more than just empathy and being nice, it is about setting expectations and informing the patient about the procedure, as well as explaining a bad outcome if one happens," says Crandall. "More often patients seek out legal advice simply because they do not know why or how a bad result occurred; the physician does not communicate with them after an untoward result occurs."

If you have any medical malpractice questions within the states of Ohio and Kentucky, contact Steve Crandall.