Empathic disconnection and the patient-physician relationship in clinical practice

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Davide Donelli
Michele Antonelli *
Matteo Rizzato
Lorenzo Morini
(*) Corresponding Author:
Michele Antonelli | michele.1989@hotmail.it


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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