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J Family Community Med. 2019 Sep-Dec;26(3):199-205. doi: 10.4103/jfcm.JFCM_66_19.

Patient-rated physicians' empathy and its determinants in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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Department of Family Medicine, King Saud Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Department of Community Medicine, Velammal Medical College Hospital and Research Institute, Madurai, India.



Patients' perception of their physician's empathy influences their compliance with treatment and the resulting quality of life. We aimed to measure the patient-rated empathy of physicians and to determine patient-level factors associated with it.


This hospital-based cross-sectional study enrolled adult (≥18 years) patients attending the outpatient clinics of the departments of family medicine, internal medicine, and surgery. We measured patients' rating of their physician's empathy using the Jefferson Scale of Patient's Perception of Physician Empathy questionnaire. Data were analyzed using SPSS v 23.0; categorical variables were presented as frequencies and percentages, and all quantitative variables were presented as mean and SD. Associations were explored by Chi-square test and Student's t-test. Regression analysis was performed to identify factors significantly associated with the empathy score; P< 0.05 was considered statistically significant.


Of a total of 390 patients with a mean (standard deviation [SD]) age of 40.5 (13.6) years, 189 (48.5%) were male. The mean (SD) total patient-rated physician empathy score was 26.6 (6.0). Multilevel linear regression modeling revealed that having a health professional in the family, suffering from an acute illness (as compared to chronic illness), consulting a physician recommended by relatives/friends, trusting the physicians' expertise, shorter (<10 min) waiting time, and perceived adequate consultation time were associated with higher empathy ratings.


Patients' perception of physicians' empathy is indispensable for the success of a clinical consultation. It is influenced by patient-level social and clinical factors. On-the-job physician training in empathy, effective monitoring, and feedback mechanisms should be an integral component of the quality control of hospital services.


Patient satisfaction; Saudi Arabia; patient rated; physician empathy

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