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March 01, 2016

Physician empathy a key driver of patient satisfaction

New study supports enhanced physician-patient communication training 

ORLANDO, Fla.—A study presented today at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), links patient-perceived physician empathy with improved outcomes and medical care satisfaction.
 
In the study, 112 new patients (mean age 51) at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Orthopaedic Surgery rated personal interaction with their hand surgeon. In addition, patients completed a health literacy test, provided sociodemographic information, and answered questions about pain, upper extremity function and depression.
 
Sixty-five percent of patient satisfaction was attributed to physician empathy, according to the study. Satisfaction was not affected by wait time for an appointment, wait time in the office, time with the surgeon, resident/fellow involvement, whether or not patients were seeking a second opinion, health literacy, or treatment choice.
 
While good technical skills are essential for hand and orthopaedic surgery, “this study shows that physician empathy is the best opportunity to improve the patient experience,” said orthopaedic surgeon and principal investigator David Ring, MD, PhD.
 
“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.”
 
Dr. Ring said surgeons and residents can be coached and practice more effective empathetic communication strategies.  It also helps for surgeons to surround themselves with staff who are both naturally skilled and expertly trained in effective communication and customer service. This is especially important as health care reimbursement is increasingly tied to patient satisfaction and patient reported outcomes.
 
“My patients and I have benefited greatly from my coaching and practice of more effective communication strategies,” said Dr. Ring.
 
The study was recently published in the Journal of Hand Surgery.

Study Abstract
 
View the 2016 AAOS Annual Meeting Disclosure Statements
 
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
With more than 39,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) is the world’s largest association of musculoskeletal specialists. The AAOS provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals, champions and advances the highest musculoskeletal care for patients, and is the authoritative source of information on bone and joint conditions, treatments, and related issues.
 
Visit AAOS at:
Newsroom.aaos.org for bone and joint health news, stats, facts, images and interview requests.
ANationinMotion.org for inspirational patient stories, and orthopaedic surgeon tips on maintaining bone and joint health, avoiding injuries, treating musculoskeletal conditions and navigating recovery.
Orthoinfo.org for patient information on hundreds of orthopaedic diseases and conditions.
Facebook.com/AAOS1
Twitter.com/AAOS1
Contact(s):
Sheryl Cash
phone: 847-384-4032
Lauren Pearson Riley
phone: 847-384-4031
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