Kindness always counts in patient care, writes doc

A pediatrician and his patient

In the exam room alone, doctors have so many factors competing for their time. From the need to document care in the electronic health record to paying attention to quality measures, the reality that patient care is really about the interaction between two people--a doctor and a patient--often gets lost.

Physicians need to remember that kindness matters, even if there’s no definitive proof it impacts patient outcomes, writes Michael Stein, M.D., internist and chairman of the department of health law, policy and management at Boston University in The Washington Post.

While Stein writes about studies that show a link between doctors’ level of empathy and their patients’ ability to manage their diabetes, he struggles to find solid proof in the literature that shows cause and effect. It may, in fact, be that doctors feel more engaged in their patients’ care after witnessing them manage their diabetes better, he writes.

“At the moment, the best answer to the kindness contrarian is: Even if the evidence in favor of the therapeutic benefits of empathy is weak, there is no evidence that refutes the idea that empathy improves care,” he writes. “And too many patients have stories of how unkindness or the sheer obliviousness of doctors can be devastating and indelible.”

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