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Diabetes Distilled: Practitioner empathy impacts long-term diabetes outcomes

Patients and doctors value empathy. Empathetic care encompasses shared decision making and understanding the patient’s perspective as well as an appreciation of the broader context in which the patient’s illness is experienced. Patients from 49 English general practices were invited to assess practitioner empathy and their experiences of diabetes care in the 12 months since their diagnosis. Higher empathy scores were associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events and all-cause mortality.

By Colin Kenny, Editor – Diabetes Distilled

Patients and doctors value empathy. Empathetic care encompasses shared decision making and understanding the patient’s perspective as well as an appreciation of the broader context in which the patient’s illness is experienced. Patients from 49 English general practices were invited to assess practitioner empathy and their experiences of diabetes care in the 12 months since their diagnosis. Higher empathy scores were associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events and all-cause mortality.

Investigators surveyed patients with type 2 diabetes to analyse the association between primary care practitioner empathy and the incidence of CVD events and all-cause mortality. This cohort study was part of the Addition-Cambridge study of 49 general practices in East Anglia. The 867 participants had screen-detected type 2 diabetes and were followed up for 10 years on average. The Consultation And Relational Empathy (CARE) questionnaire was used to assess practitioner empathy and patients’ experiences of diabetes care during the 12 months following diagnosis. The questionnaire scores were grouped into low, moderate and high tertials.
 
At 10-year follow-up, patients reporting better experiences of empathy in the first 12 months after diagnosis had a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality compared with those who experienced low practitioner empathy. There was also a trend towards a lower risk of CVD events in patients experiencing better empathy.
 
The investigators suggested that positive interpersonal and empathetic experiences of healthcare early on in the course of diabetes could prove more effective at reducing the risk of mortality than focusing on the biological characteristics of diabetes alone.
 
To access the publication, click here

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