Time Waster or Time Saver?

Q: “Yesterday, I read an article by a fellow physician suggesting that many of us are not as empathetic with patients as we should be. I don’t mean to dismiss the idea entirely, but during most clinic days I’m lucky if I can spend five quality minutes with each patient. What does this physician know that the rest of us don’t?”

A: When it comes to empathy, one of the biggest fears we clinicians have is the prospect of adding time to the clinical encounter. I think we’d all agree that managing the patient is hard enough, and the prospect of creating a “rabbit hole” isn’t exactly inviting. Physicians I talk to are often surprised to see how empathy makes for more effective interactions ‐‐ from helping patients quickly zero in on what’s really going on, to curbing those last minute “but wait, there’s more” patient concerns we hear when walking out the door.

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