A recent study reports that empathetic care generates better patient outcomes. An extensive empirical study by a team of Thomas Jefferson University and Italian researchers covered 20,961 diabetic patients and 242 physicians in Italy to evaluate the relationship between physician empathy and clinical outcomes. They used the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) developed in 2001 which defines empathy as an intention to help and an understanding of a patient’s concerns, pain and suffering.
Empathy and communication with the patient is crucial in pain management. According to recent surveys, about 57% of American adults suffer from chronic or recurrent pain. Pain is one of the most common symptoms reported in primary care settings. However, a study on the role of patient-health care provider relationship in chronic pain management reports that with primary care physicians (PCPs), there are many factors which may hinder the development of the smooth provider-patient relationship necessary for effective pain management. These include lack of adequate training, time constraints, the personal nature of patient complaints, lack of connection between diagnostic findings and patient accounts of pain, and more.
Pain management is best handled by experts. Chronic pain management should include:
- A comprehensive history and physical evaluation to assess the pain condition
- Identification of the specific manner in which the patient’s pain interferes affects with their daily living
- Convincing the patient to have realistic expectations as well as establishment of realistic treatment goals on the part of the provider
- Creation of a customized treatment plan to meet the specific needs of the patient
- A holistic approach to treatment and care
This is the approach adopted at established healthcare centers that specialize in pain management. Teams of orthopedists, neurologists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, clinical psychologists, physical therapists and pain management physicians work with patients to implement treatment programs to reduce pain and create the way for a healthy and active lifestyle. Empathy and compassionate care are crucial components of treatment at these centers.