June 3, 2016
With healthcare reimbursement increasingly subject to patient satisfaction, being empathetic is more important than ever. At the same time, though, medical professionals nationwide are experiencing near-unprecedented demands on their time and expertise.
According to a recent study in the Journal of Hand Surgery, 65 percent of patient satisfaction was attributed to physician empathy. The study revealed that this satisfaction wasn’t impaired by wait time (either for an appointment or in the office) or time spent with the physician. It was empathy — above even medical expertise — that proved most important to the patient experience.
Dr. David Ring, an orthopedic surgeon principally involved in the study, said doctors could be coached into adopting strong empathetic communication strategies that could be practiced and honed with time. Time, however, is just what many physicians don’t have.
“Automating empathy” at first sounds like an oxymoron, up there with “working holiday,” “jumbo shrimp,” or — my personal favorite — “Dodge Ram.” But the phrase is the buzzword in healthcare today, and with good reason: automation allows for inexpensive and effective contact between patients and physicians, both before and after a visit or procedure.