General practitioners’ patient-centredness and responses to patients’ emotional cues and concerns : relationships with perceived empathy in areas of high and low socioeconomic deprivation

Lundy, Jenna-Marie and Bikker, Annemieke and Higgins, Maria and Watt, Graham C. and Little, Paul and Humphries, Gerry M. and Mercer, Stewart W. (2015) General practitioners’ patient-centredness and responses to patients’ emotional cues and concerns : relationships with perceived empathy in areas of high and low socioeconomic deprivation. Journal of Compassionate Health Care, 2 (2). pp. 1-7.

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    Abstract

    Background Physician empathy is important to patients across the socio-economic spectrum. However, whether socioeconomic status (SES) influences how patients’ judge physician empathy is not known. We investigated how patients’ perceptions of their general practitioners’ (GPs) empathy related to objectively measured patient-centeredness of the GPs and their detection and response to emotional cues. Methods Secondary analysis of 112 videoed consultations of 8 GPs with the high and low empathy scores as rated by patients using the Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) Measure working in high or low deprivation settings in Scotland. Objective assessment involved the Measure of Patient-Centredness (MPCC) which has 3 components (exploring disease and illness experience, understanding the whole person, and finding common ground) and the Verona coding system (which measures emotional cues, concerns and responses). Results GPs rated by patients as being empathic were more patient-centred overall than those rated as less empathic, in both high (p = 0.03) and low deprivation areas (p = 0.05). In high deprivation areas, perceived empathy was related to finding common ground (p = 0.02) whereas in low deprivation areas it was related to understanding the whole person (p= 0.01). In high deprivation areas, empathic GPs also had significantly different responses to emotional cues and concerns than GPs perceived as having low empathy. Conclusion Socioeconomic status appears to affect how patients judge practitioner empathy. This study emphasises the importance of finding common ground and detecting and responding actively to emotional cues in consultations in high deprivation areas. Further research on a larger sample is warranted.

    ORCID iDs

    Lundy, Jenna-Marie ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2301-4125, Bikker, Annemieke, Higgins, Maria, Watt, Graham C., Little, Paul, Humphries, Gerry M. and Mercer, Stewart W.;