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Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2011 Dec;16(5):591-600. doi: 10.1007/s10459-011-9278-3. Epub 2011 Feb 2.

The effect of surgeon empathy and emotional intelligence on patient satisfaction.

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Department of Health Management, I-Shou University, Kaohsiung County, Taiwan.


We investigated the associations of surgeons' emotional intelligence and surgeons' empathy with patient-surgeon relationships, patient perceptions of their health, and patient satisfaction before and after surgical procedures. We used multi-source approaches to survey 50 surgeons and their 549 outpatients during initial and follow-up visits. Surgeons' emotional intelligence had a positive effect (r = .45; p < .001) on patient-rated patient-surgeon relationships. Patient-surgeon relationships had a positive impact on patient satisfaction before surgery (r = .95; p < .001). Surgeon empathy did not have an effect on patient-surgeon relationships or patient satisfaction prior to surgery. But after surgery, surgeon empathy appeared to have a significantly positive and indirect effect on patient satisfaction through the mediating effect of patients' self-reported health status (r = .21; p < .001). Our study showed that long-term patient satisfaction with their surgeons is affected less by emotional intelligence than by empathy. Furthermore, empathy indirectly affects patient satisfaction through its positive effect on health outcomes, which have a direct effect on patients' satisfaction with their surgeons.

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