A new paradigm for empathy: using technology to put the clinical encounter at the heart of care

How can technology help independent physicians develop empathy? Why is empathy important in the provider setting? Empathy enables the provider to understand the patient’s feelings, beyond the physical symptoms that patient might be experiencing. A provider’s empathy helps give the patient a greater comfort level and helps the provider convey information regarding diagnosis and treatment plans in a manner that may be more easily received.

Greater Good Magazine has cited research that “concluded that effective physician-patient communication improves patients’ emotional health, symptoms, physiologic responses, and pain levels.” Empathy is an essential component of effective communication in a healthcare setting. The primary care provider must be able to focus on the patient during the visit as well as be available to answer questions and provide additional information in follow-up messages.

Technology can enable the independent physician to put the clinical encounter at the heart of care. Exploiting available technology to reduce paperwork and to increase time spent with patients can be the solution, write Dr. Jeremy Howick and Dr. Sian Rees of the Oxford Empathy Programme, in the latest issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Relying on technology tools such as electronic health records (EHRs) can actually help the provider develop the physician-patient relationship needed to establish that empathy. When the provider is spending less time on paperwork and more time focused on listening to the patient’s concerns and emotions, that relationship is enhanced as is the quality of care the physician is able to provide.