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07.11.2018 | Original Research | Ausgabe 1/2019

Journal of General Internal Medicine 1/2019

Physician Empathy Is Not Associated with Laboratory Outcomes in Diabetes: a Cross-sectional Study

Zeitschrift:
Journal of General Internal Medicine > Ausgabe 1/2019
Autoren:
MPH Alexander Chaitoff, MD, MPH Michael B. Rothberg, PhD Amy K. Windover, DO Leonard Calabrese, MD, MPH Anita D. Misra-Hebert, PhD, MPH Kathryn A. Martinez

Abstract

Background

One widely cited study suggested a link between physician empathy and laboratory outcomes in patients with diabetes, but its findings have not been replicated. While empathy has a positive impact on patient experience, its impact on other outcomes remains unclear.

Objective

To assess associations between physician empathy and glycosylated hemoglobin (HgbA1c) as well as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in patients with diabetes.

Design

Retrospective cross-sectional study.

Participants

Patients with diabetes who received care at a large integrated health system in the USA between January 1, 2011, and May 31, 2014, and their primary care physicians.

Main Measures

The main independent measure was physician empathy, as measured by the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE). The JSE is scored on a scale of 20–140, with higher scores indicating greater empathy. Dependent measures included patient HgbA1c and LDL. Mixed-effects linear regression models adjusting for patient sociodemographic characteristics, comorbidity index, and physician characteristics were used to assess the association between physician JSE scores and their patients’ HgbA1c and LDL.

Key Results

The sample included 4176 primary care patients who received care with one of 51 primary care physicians. Mean physician JSE score was 118.4 (standard deviation (SD) = 12). Median patient HgbA1c was 6.7% (interquartile range (IQR) = 6.2–7.5) and median LDL concentration was 83 (IQR = 66–104). In adjusted analyses, there was no association between JSE scores and HgbA1c (β = − 0.01, 95%CI = − 0.04, 0.02, p = 0.47) or LDL (β = 0.41, 95%CI = − 0.47, 1.29, p = 0.35).

Conclusion

Physician empathy was not associated with HgbA1c or LDL. While interventions to increase physician empathy may result in more patient-centered care, they may not improve clinical outcomes in patients with diabetes.

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