Blog | Wednesday, September 12, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Empathetic doctors keep diabetics healthier

Fewer diabetic patients had acute complications when their physicians ranked higher on standardized empathy scores, a study found.

Researchers conducted a retrospective correlational study among nearly 21,000 patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes from Parma, Italy for the calendar year 2009. Doctor's scores on the Jefferson Scale of Empathy were compared with acute metabolic complications of a hyperosmolar state, diabetic ketoacidosis, or coma in patients hospitalized that year. The physicians included 242 doctors of 301 respondents (80.4%).

Results appeared in the September issue of Academic Medicine.

Patients of physicians with high empathy scores, compared with patients of physicians with moderate and low empathy scores, had a significantly lower rate of acute metabolic complications (4.0, 7.1, and 6.5 per 1,000 patients, respectively, P less than .05).

Physicians with high empathy scores were associated with fewer acute metabolic complications compared to those with low empathy scores (odds ratio [OR], 0.59; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.37 to 0.95). Patients ages 69 and older had more acute complications (OR, 1.7;95% CI, 1.2 to 1.4).

A trusting relationship between physician and patient could lead to better communication and greater compliance with treatment plans, the authors noted, and such qualities should be incorporated into medical education.

"Although empathic engagement is important in patient care regardless of physicians' specialty, it is more critical in the primary care setting, which requires long-term physician-patient encounters and continuity of care," the authors wrote.