Empathy: The First Step To Improving Health Outcomes

bpd empathy

A Health Affairs post points to a study that higher levels of physician empathy predicted better outcomes for diabetes patients.

A 2012 study from Italy analyzed the health outcomes of more than 20,000 patients with diabetes, who were assigned to three different groups of physicians (pre-evaluated for their levels of empathy). The physicians who demonstrated the highest degrees of empathy achieved the best results with their patients; the patients had statistically significant lower levels of diabetic complications than the groups whose physicians had scored lower in empathy.

It makes a lot of sense that this would be especially important in chronic disease management (or, recovery management) , where the goal is long term engagement to monitor their illness/recovery, support the patient through difficult behavioral changes and re-intervene quickly when symptoms recur.

Who would want to call their helper about problems in their recovery or a relapse? This isn’t an easy call to make under the best circumstances. Even more so if you don’t believe your helper understands, cares or worse, judges you. Under these circumstances the patient is more likely to put it off and put it off as the problem grows and becomes more difficult to manage.

I continue to be convinced that addiction treatment providers have a lot to learn from chronic disease management and that we have a lot of experience to offer them. This will be important to follow as the chronic disease burden continues to get more attention.

via Empathy: The First Step To Improving Health Outcomes – Health Affairs Blog.

4 thoughts on “Empathy: The First Step To Improving Health Outcomes

    1. I’d suspect that is the case in aggregate. Though, some of the least empathetic counselors I’ve seen have been recovering and some of the most compassionate have been non-recovering. (Note the shift from empathetic to compassionate. That was unconscious. I just noticed it myself. Read into it what you like.)

      At the same time, I believe the best helpers are “wounded healers” in some way. It’s important that they be healed and it’s important that they be in touch with their woundedness. (http://mx1.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/2000RecoveringPeopleasWoundedHealersII.pdf)

      At Dawn Farm, we believe in the importance of maintaining a balance of recovering and non-recovering staff. Each has it’s benefits and potential drawbacks.


      1. Yes, I think you are right. Lived experience gives a counsellor the potential to be empathetic, but it’s not necessarily a ticket to a wonderful therapeutic relationship.

        I think the key to the effectiveness of the wounded healer is awareness that the wound is there. People go into the field of care for so many reasons; not all of them acknowledged or understood.


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