Empathy is the missing link in patient care

2016 08 22 14 15 49 958 Danenberg Alvin 400

It may come as no surprise, but conventional medicine doesn't successfully treat all diseases. Of course, no healing modality is successful 100% of the time. While there are many reasons why any attempt to heal might fail, there is one common human skill that is critical for successful outcomes. And the lack of this human factor might well increase the likelihood of any treatment's failure.

I believe an underlying factor for success in patient care is empathy. Empathy is the intangible capacity to understand and share the feelings of another.


Alvin Danenberg, DDS.Alvin Danenberg, DDS.

While people may need different treatments for their specific condition, they always need to feel heard and understood. They require concern and compassion from all practitioners, no matter if the practitioners are in the conventional world or the alternative world of medicine.

Being a healthcare practitioner, all too often I witness lack of empathy: from the person who takes the first phone call from a new patient to the staff members in the way they speak to patients with little concern for their wait time in the reception room.

I have experienced it in the way patients are addressed; how they are ushered into a room that is too cold and uncomfortable; how the doctor eventually shows up looking at a pile of papers with no eye contact.

Patients don't know what they don't know. They are scared, confused, and hurting physically and emotionally. And then they are stifled when there is no outlet for expression while in the presence of those healthcare professionals who are lacking the healing quality of empathy.


“I believe an underlying factor for success in patient care is empathy.”

The lack of empathy is pervasive. Practitioners of all types get into a rut and become mechanical in what they do day after day. But when this happens, the practitioner may not be able to really listen to the patient, much less fully discuss any treatment options.

Don't get me wrong. Many practitioners are empathetic and their staffs are caring. But if a common denominator were leading to unsuccessful medical results, empathy would be the missing link in the healing professions in my opinion.

Like anything in life, if there is a problem, then there probably is a fix. If empathy is not part of your equation when dealing with people, take a moment to think about why it isn't.

There are courses you could take and books you could read. It's not that difficult. More than half the battle is won once you realize there is a problem and know there is a potential solution.

Alvin Danenberg, DDS, has retired from the private practice of periodontics in Bluffton, SC. He continues to be on the faculty of the College of Integrative Medicine and created its integrative periodontal teaching module. He also spent two years as chief of periodontics at Charleston Air Force Base earlier in his career. His website is drdanenberg.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Page 1 of 533
Next Page