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Kathy Marshack News

The Impact of Perceived Empathy on the Common Cold

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


What does a patient want from a doctor? Knowledge and experience are of course a must, but what about empathy and compassion? According to current studies, empathy plays a vital role in the recovery of a patient.    


Physicians, Dave Rakel and Bruce Barrett, led a study about perceived empathy. Patients with a common cold were studied. There were three groups of patients. Group one had no interaction with a doctor. Group two received "standard" care from a doctor. The focus was on the examination with little eye contact. The last group received PEECE. PEECE is the Perception of Empathy in the Therapeutic Encounter: Effects on the Common Cold. Doctors focused on showing empathy and building a connection with the patient.    


The results were astounding. The patients who rated their encounter with the doctor as "perfect" recovered from their cold quicker than those who felt a lack of empathy. Dr. Rakel comments, "Compared to earlier findings, this shows even more powerfully how patients’ perception of empathy can support their immune function's ability to recover from the common cold more quickly and with fewer symptoms. This study gives us a lot of hope that relationship-centered care really matters. There is power in the process before the pill even takes effect.” To learn more about this fascinating study, read - Final Study: Physician Empathy Helps Patients Overcome Colds Faster   


Lack of empathy goes beyond helping the common cold. I believe lack of empathy to be related to many of the problems we see. Stay tuned – I will be writing more on this topic. 



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