Perceptions of Doctors’ Empathy and Patients’ Subjective Health Status at an Online Clinic: Development of an Empathic Anamnesis Questionnaire

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Abstract

Objective Medical doctors' empathy is known to support patients' health status after face-to-face clinical visits. However, the role of doctors' empathy in chat-based encounters is not yet well understood. This study investigates whether patients' evaluations of doctors' empathy are associated with their health perceptions after a meeting at an online clinic and whether experiences of empathy could be enhanced by augmenting an automated anamnesis questionnaire completed before the visit. Methods A total of 209 adult patients agreed to participate in the study. First 103 patients filled out the regular version of the questionnaire (June-August 2019) and then 106 filled out the augmented version of the online anamnesis questionnaire (August-November 2019). Patients' perceptions of doctors' empathy were measured with the Consultation and Relational Empathy questionnaire. Patients' self-perceived health status, potential confounders, and demographic background information were measured via questionnaires. Results Patients' perceptions of doctors' empathy during a chat-based encounter were associated with patients being less concerned about their symptoms (estimated odds ratios varied between 0.45 and 0.55 depending on the model, p values < .003) and considering their symptoms as less severe (estimated odds ratios = 0.54-0.61, p values < .007), as well as a higher probability of alleviation of symptoms as rated by the patients (estimated odds ratios = 2.16-2.24, p values < .001). Augmenting the anamnesis questionnaire did not affect patient reports on doctors' overall empathy, but it did have positive effects on specific areas of doctors' empathy covered by the questionnaire. Conclusions These results show that patients' experience of doctors' empathy not only is important during face-to-face encounters but also supports patients' perceptions of health when the interaction is text based. The results also encourage further development of means to support patients' experiences of empathy during online interaction with medical doctors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Volume84
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)513-521
Number of pages9
ISSN0033-3174
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 515 Psychology
  • empathy
  • doctor-patient interaction
  • chat-based interaction
  • self-perceived health status
  • CARE
  • digital health care
  • CARE = Consultation and Relational Empathy
  • RQ = research question
  • SD = standard deviation
  • PHYSICIAN EMPATHY
  • PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR
  • RELATIONAL EMPATHY
  • COMMUNICATION
  • CONSULTATION
  • INCREASES
  • OPTIMISM
  • ANXIETY
  • MODEL
  • LONG

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