How Empathy Can Heal the Healthcare System

Physician burnout is a real issue in today’s health systems. When doctors are seeing dozens of patients a day, there’s little time left for creating deeper connections.

One doctor is trying to convince her colleagues that empathy is an overlooked tool that is worth their time.


In another piece of Illinois healthcare news, Dr. Diane Sliwka’s presentation at the 14th Annual Midwest Hospital Medicine Conference that took place in Chicago, October 18th-20 was designed to teach her colleagues concrete ways to improve the patient experience.


Organized by Northwestern Medicine, the conference gathered healthcare professionals from across the Midwest who shared their vision for the future of hospital medicine.


Sliwka’s research shows that stronger doctor-patient relationships have an array of benefits from improved pain control to a reduced the risk of coronary heart disease and a even a 40% reduction in hospital readmissions.


“A lot of us feel like there’s no time to spend on this,” Sliwka said. In reality, she explained, this practice is not all that time consuming.

Uninterrupted, a patient will talk for about 90 seconds, that’s a small investment of time on behalf of the doctor and studies show that about 50% of cases could be diagnosed more accurately if medical providers would listen more.


Empathic doctors are also more efficient. Surgeons who made an emphatic statement spent on average 12.5 minutes per visit compared to 14 minutes for those who didn’t. For internists, the difference was slightly bigger: 17.5 minutes to 20 minutes.


While the medical community has yet to fully embrace these concepts, Sliwka is confident that this shift will transform the healthcare space for the better.

Learn what other healthcare trends are shaping the industry.

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