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Patient Educ Couns. 2006 Oct;63(1-2):239-45. Epub 2006 Feb 7.

Practitioner empathy, patient enablement and health outcomes: a prospective study of acupuncture patients.

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  • 1University of Edinburgh, Public Health Sciences, Edinburgh, Lothian, Scotland, United Kingdom.



To measure acupuncture patients' perceptions of practitioner empathy at the initial consultation and its relationship with patient enablement, and prospectively reported changes in symptoms.


Fifteen acupuncturists asked consecutive new patients to complete a questionnaire within 2 days of the first consultation. The questionnaire included the Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) measure (a consultation process measure), the Patient Enablement Instrument (PEI, a consultation outcome measure) and the Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP), a patient-centred symptom, well-being and activity outcome measure. A postal follow-up questionnaire was completed at 8 weeks, which repeated these measures.


Fifty-two patients (58% of all new patients) completed the initial questionnaire. Of these, 41 (79%) completed the follow-up questionnaire. From a multiple regression analysis, which controlled for known confounders, empathy was found to be associated with enablement at the initial consultation (Beta coefficient=0.16, 95% CI: 0.02-0.31, p=0.03) and empathy-predicted changes in health outcome (MYMOP) at 8 weeks (Beta=0.07, 95% CI: 0.004-0.13, p=0.04).


Patients' perception of practitioner empathy was associated with patient enablement at initial consultation and predicted changes in health outcome at 8 weeks.


The empathy of practitioners, as perceived by patients, has a direct impact on patient enablement and health outcome.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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