Empathic disconnection and the patient-physician relationship in clinical practice

  • Davide Donelli Alta Intensità Medica, Department of Internal Medicine, Azienda USL di Reggio Emilia-IRCCS, Reggio Emilia, Italy.
  • Michele Antonelli | michele.1989@hotmail.it Institute of Public Health, Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Parma, Parma; Terme di Monticelli, Monticelli Terme (PR), Italy.
  • Matteo Rizzato M.R. Coaching Sas, Pordenone, Italy.
  • Lorenzo Morini Alta Intensità Medica, Department of Internal Medicine, Azienda USL di Reggio Emilia-IRCCS, Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Abstract

Empathy markedly influences the patient-physician relationship and, consequently, the patient’s experience. When relating with patients, empathic disconnection (ED), a condition characterized by a reduction of the empathic response, often occurs. During clinical practice, it is important to recognize and possibly avoid ED in order to improve the patient-physician relationship. Some of the most common scenarios which lead to ED in clinical practice are countertransference hate, moral judgement, reactive physical discomfort, and labelling. Although many strategies may be adopted by the physician to empower empathy in the patient-physician relationship, the focus should be in the first place on paying attention to communication process during clinical practice. Being able to recognize situations characterized by ED in order to prevent them can improve the patient’s experience. Further research is needed to investigate this aspect of the patient-physician relationship and its impact on clinical outcomes.

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Published
2018-12-03
Section
Brief Reports
Keywords:
Patient-physician relationship, empathy, empathic disconnection, medical education, patient’s experience.
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How to Cite
Donelli, D., Antonelli, M., Rizzato, M., & Morini, L. (2018). Empathic disconnection and the patient-physician relationship in clinical practice. Italian Journal of Medicine, 12(4), 265-269. https://doi.org/10.4081/itjm.2018.1043