Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Riess delivers on empathy

Empathy is a fashionable topic, but the discussion surrounding it is often a bit touchy-feely, short on rigor.  In contrast, I recently came across this excellent TEDx talk by Helen Riess delivered at Middlebury a bit over a year ago.  It's 17 minutes are worth watching in several respects--thoughtful, understated, and substantive.

Helen is local, based at MGH, so I gave her a call and she told me about some of her activities.  With the encouragement of her hospital, she's started a firm called Empathetics, which is conducting training for clinicians based on her research. You see, empathy isn't just about feeling warmth and connection: The emotional connection also has roots in neurobiology and physiology.  Helen has taken what she and colleagues have learned about these aspects of empathy and have integrated them into a training protocol grounded in neuroscience that can achieve improvements in the clinical process and outcomes.  As noted:

Empathetics offers novel training based on the neurobiology and physiology of human interactions that improve interpersonal behavior benefiting both patients and clinicians. Empathetics training enables accurate interpretation and translation of emotional communications, resulting in greater trust, safety and satisfaction for patients and medical professionals.

For those concerned about the rate of malpractice asserts, it is worth noting, too, that, "Over 80% of malpractice claims are the result of communication failures, and the likelihood of an unhappy outcome is correlated to low physician empathy."

Helen is a scientist-clinician.  She put her approaches through a randomized control trial at MGH.  She concludes:

Providing empathic care does not necessarily increase cost or time with patients. In fact, empathic interactions with others can actually save time and be more effective using the techniques in our training.

I have no financial interest in this company, but it seems to me that the methods and approaches offered by Helen and her colleagues are worthy of consideration by a broad range of health care provider organizations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I could think of quite a few places that she could visit.