Physicians’ empathy can lead to physical improvements in patients

The Wellesley News

By STEPHANIE GALL ’14

Staff Columnist 

If you have ever developed a close relationship with your doctor, you know the effect a positive, supportive connection can have on the entire treatment process. Physicians do more than treat physical pains or illnesses; they give emotional care as well. As the director and founder of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Empathy and Relational Science Program, Dr. Helen Riess studies how physicians’ empathy can impact their patients’ health and well-being.

Her most recent findings show that improving the quality of clinicians’ relationships with their patients can produce small but significant improvements in their patients’ physical health. “I hope doctors realize that taking the extra time to make themselves available or remember things about their patients will not only strengthen the relationship they have with their patients but will also result in patients’ overall health improvements,” Riess said.

Past research has examined how manipulating specific facets…

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