Health Team

Study helps doctors recognize empathic moments

Posted October 31, 2011

— Most patients facing illness or serious disease are stressed. They may be upset, especially when they meet with their doctor.

“They want a doctor who is present and who can sense what they're going through,” Duke researcher Dr. James Tulsky said.

Tulsky said many doctors don't recognize the moments or even know the right words to use to show that they really do care.

So, Tulsky developed an interactive CD-ROM research tool to see if it could help doctors improve their communication skills.

“They need to recognize moments in conversations, which we call empathic opportunities, when patients express negative emotion,” he said.

Participating doctors used a mobile device to record a few conversations with patients. They uploaded the recording to communication experts who provided feedback, including suggestions for improved communication.

“Nearly all the doctors who used this CD say that it changed their practice,” Tulsky said.

doctors Study helps doctors connect with patients

Those who used the training tool were twice as likely to respond to patients' empathic moments as physicians who didn't, Tulsky said.

Duke researchers hope to convert the CD-ROM training used in the study to an online interactive training tool available for all physicians.

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  • anne53ozzy Nov 4, 2011

    Do the patients know they are being recorded? Who funds this study?