Study finds empathy impacts patient satisfaction more than wait times

Nearly two-thirds of patient satisfaction was attributed to physician empathy in a recent study of hand surgeons.

The study polled 112 patients on their personal interactions with their orthopedic surgeon in addition to pain levels, upper extremity function, depression, health literacy and sociodemographic information. Researchers found patient satisfaction was not significantly impacted by appointment wait times, wait times in the office, amount of time spent with the surgeon, resident involvement, health literacy, if the patient was seeking a second opinion or their treatment choice. Instead, they found 65 percent of patient satisfaction linked to empathetic communication.

"In prior studies, we've had trouble determining what specifically contributes to patient satisfaction, so a finding that empathy explains 65 percent of the variation in satisfaction is really powerful," David Ring, MD, PhD, orthopedic surgeon and principal investigator, said in a news release.

The results of the study suggest it might be more important for physicians to make patients "feel heard and cared for than it is to provide expert medical advice," the study reads. It also underscores the importance of learning soft skills for physicians, especially as reimbursement is increasingly tied to factors like patient satisfaction.


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