(HealthDay News) – Physician empathy, as measured by a validated scale, correlates with clinical outcome for patients with diabetes, with better outcome for those with doctors with high empathy, according to a study published in the September issue of Academic Medicine.
Stefano Del Canale, MD, PhD, from the Local Health Authority in Parma, Italy, and colleagues examined the association between physician empathy and outcome in a cohort of 20,961 patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus. The Jefferson Scale of Empathy score was used to assess empathy of participating physicians. The occurrence of acute metabolic complications (hyperosmolar state, diabetic ketoacidosis, and coma) was assessed for patients hospitalized in 2009.
The researchers found that patients of physicians with high empathy scores had a significantly lower rate of acute metabolic complications (4 per 1,000 patients) than patients of physicians with moderate scores (7.1 per 1,000 patients) or low scores (6.5 per 1,000 patients). Physicians’ empathy scores were linked to acute metabolic complications (odds ratio, 0.59 for physicians with high vs. low scores). Patient age also contributed to acute metabolic complications (age 69 years or older: odds ratio, 1.7).
“These results suggest that physician empathy is significantly associated with clinical outcome for patients with diabetes mellitus and should be considered an important component of clinical competence,” the authors write.