Providing support to patients in emotional encounters

A new perspective on missed empathic opportunities

Ian Hsu, Somnath (Som) Saha, Philip (Todd) Korthuis, Victoria Sharp, Jonathon Cohn, Richard D. Moore, Mary Catherine Beach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: Studies have repeatedly found that providers miss 70-90% of opportunities to express empathy. Our study sought to characterize provider responses to patients' emotions, with the overall goal of better understanding reasons for lack of empathic response. Methods: We analyzed 47 visits between patients and their providers. We defined empathic opportunities as instances where patients expressed a strong negative emotion. We then developed thematic categories to describe provider response. Results: We found a total of 29 empathic opportunities within 21 visits. Provider responses were categorized as ignore, dismiss, elicit information, problem-solve, or empathize. An empathic statement occurred at some point in the response sequence in 13/29 opportunities (45%). When problem-solving was the initial response, empathic statements rarely occurred in subsequent dialogue. Among the 16 instances with no empathic statements, providers engaged in problem-solving in 8 (50%). Conclusion: Similar to other studies, we found providers missed most opportunities to respond empathically to patient emotion. Yet contrary to common understanding, providers often addressed the problem underlying the emotion, especially when the problem involved logistical or biomedical issues, as opposed to grief. Practice implications: With enhanced awareness, providers may better recognize situations where they can offer empathy in addition to problem-solving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-442
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Volume88
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Fingerprint

Emotions
Grief

Keywords

  • Emotion
  • Empathy
  • Patient-physician communication
  • Physician-patient relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Providing support to patients in emotional encounters : A new perspective on missed empathic opportunities. / Hsu, Ian; Saha, Somnath (Som); Korthuis, Philip (Todd); Sharp, Victoria; Cohn, Jonathon; Moore, Richard D.; Beach, Mary Catherine.

In: Patient Education and Counseling, Vol. 88, No. 3, 09.2012, p. 436-442.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Hsu, Ian ; Saha, Somnath (Som) ; Korthuis, Philip (Todd) ; Sharp, Victoria ; Cohn, Jonathon ; Moore, Richard D. ; Beach, Mary Catherine. / Providing support to patients in emotional encounters : A new perspective on missed empathic opportunities. In: Patient Education and Counseling. 2012 ; Vol. 88, No. 3. pp. 436-442.
@article{76ebd5ca3ef8401a8e9c8bca316e7fe4,
title = "Providing support to patients in emotional encounters: A new perspective on missed empathic opportunities",
abstract = "Objective: Studies have repeatedly found that providers miss 70-90{\%} of opportunities to express empathy. Our study sought to characterize provider responses to patients' emotions, with the overall goal of better understanding reasons for lack of empathic response. Methods: We analyzed 47 visits between patients and their providers. We defined empathic opportunities as instances where patients expressed a strong negative emotion. We then developed thematic categories to describe provider response. Results: We found a total of 29 empathic opportunities within 21 visits. Provider responses were categorized as ignore, dismiss, elicit information, problem-solve, or empathize. An empathic statement occurred at some point in the response sequence in 13/29 opportunities (45{\%}). When problem-solving was the initial response, empathic statements rarely occurred in subsequent dialogue. Among the 16 instances with no empathic statements, providers engaged in problem-solving in 8 (50{\%}). Conclusion: Similar to other studies, we found providers missed most opportunities to respond empathically to patient emotion. Yet contrary to common understanding, providers often addressed the problem underlying the emotion, especially when the problem involved logistical or biomedical issues, as opposed to grief. Practice implications: With enhanced awareness, providers may better recognize situations where they can offer empathy in addition to problem-solving.",
keywords = "Emotion, Empathy, Patient-physician communication, Physician-patient relations",
author = "Ian Hsu and Saha, {Somnath (Som)} and Korthuis, {Philip (Todd)} and Victoria Sharp and Jonathon Cohn and Moore, {Richard D.} and Beach, {Mary Catherine}",
year = "2012",
month = "9",
doi = "10.1016/j.pec.2012.06.015",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "88",
pages = "436--442",
journal = "Patient Education and Counseling",
issn = "0738-3991",
publisher = "Elsevier Ireland Ltd",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Providing support to patients in emotional encounters

T2 - A new perspective on missed empathic opportunities

AU - Hsu, Ian

AU - Saha, Somnath (Som)

AU - Korthuis, Philip (Todd)

AU - Sharp, Victoria

AU - Cohn, Jonathon

AU - Moore, Richard D.

AU - Beach, Mary Catherine

PY - 2012/9

Y1 - 2012/9

N2 - Objective: Studies have repeatedly found that providers miss 70-90% of opportunities to express empathy. Our study sought to characterize provider responses to patients' emotions, with the overall goal of better understanding reasons for lack of empathic response. Methods: We analyzed 47 visits between patients and their providers. We defined empathic opportunities as instances where patients expressed a strong negative emotion. We then developed thematic categories to describe provider response. Results: We found a total of 29 empathic opportunities within 21 visits. Provider responses were categorized as ignore, dismiss, elicit information, problem-solve, or empathize. An empathic statement occurred at some point in the response sequence in 13/29 opportunities (45%). When problem-solving was the initial response, empathic statements rarely occurred in subsequent dialogue. Among the 16 instances with no empathic statements, providers engaged in problem-solving in 8 (50%). Conclusion: Similar to other studies, we found providers missed most opportunities to respond empathically to patient emotion. Yet contrary to common understanding, providers often addressed the problem underlying the emotion, especially when the problem involved logistical or biomedical issues, as opposed to grief. Practice implications: With enhanced awareness, providers may better recognize situations where they can offer empathy in addition to problem-solving.

AB - Objective: Studies have repeatedly found that providers miss 70-90% of opportunities to express empathy. Our study sought to characterize provider responses to patients' emotions, with the overall goal of better understanding reasons for lack of empathic response. Methods: We analyzed 47 visits between patients and their providers. We defined empathic opportunities as instances where patients expressed a strong negative emotion. We then developed thematic categories to describe provider response. Results: We found a total of 29 empathic opportunities within 21 visits. Provider responses were categorized as ignore, dismiss, elicit information, problem-solve, or empathize. An empathic statement occurred at some point in the response sequence in 13/29 opportunities (45%). When problem-solving was the initial response, empathic statements rarely occurred in subsequent dialogue. Among the 16 instances with no empathic statements, providers engaged in problem-solving in 8 (50%). Conclusion: Similar to other studies, we found providers missed most opportunities to respond empathically to patient emotion. Yet contrary to common understanding, providers often addressed the problem underlying the emotion, especially when the problem involved logistical or biomedical issues, as opposed to grief. Practice implications: With enhanced awareness, providers may better recognize situations where they can offer empathy in addition to problem-solving.

KW - Emotion

KW - Empathy

KW - Patient-physician communication

KW - Physician-patient relations

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84864539397&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84864539397&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.pec.2012.06.015

DO - 10.1016/j.pec.2012.06.015

M3 - Article

VL - 88

SP - 436

EP - 442

JO - Patient Education and Counseling

JF - Patient Education and Counseling

SN - 0738-3991

IS - 3

ER -