Empathy: “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.” In other words, empathy is caring about other people as people. Not as data points, medical files or appointments.
Sometimes, in the healthcare field, we focus so much on engagement and experience that we forget about being empathetic. While certainly not all physicians and clinicians lack empathy, it’s important to note that those who do build empathetic relationships with their patients have a better chance of achieving patient loyalty.
Patient Loyalty & Physician Empathy
In an empathetic medical practice, physicians take the time to listen to patients. They hear and understand not only what patients say but also the underlying motivations behind it. By placing a more significant emphasis on communication, physicians show their patients that they truly care.
Patients who receive empathetic care build stronger relationships with their providers and are often more comfortable providing honest feedback. Not only is this good for the practice, but it can also improve the patient’s health outcomes, especially if they speak up regarding their medication or treatment plan. More empathetic physicians can also anticipate their patients’ needs and counteract potential anxiety or be prepared to answer questions before they ask.
This call for physician empathy shouldn’t discount the importance of patient engagement. Engaging with patients is one of the best ways to convey empathy, as long as it is done in the right manner. Providers need to remember that engagement goes well beyond patient portal utilization. By listening to patients’ needs and desires, you can create an empathetic environment.
How to Incorporate More Empathy in Your Practice
There are many ways to bring more physician empathy into your practice, but perhaps the most overarching strategy is to be fully present when you are with patients. Spend the extra moment or two at the end of the appointment to ask the patient about something entirely unrelated, but important to them. Remember their personal life updates and make eye contact.
When you put in this extra effort, healthcare consumers will notice and when they do, it can significantly impact their loyalty. Empathy builds stronger, more lasting relationships that compel patients to stay, while a lack of empathy can drive them away to another practice that shows more genuine care.
Empathy can even impact a patient’s health. When patients truly feel their physicians care about and are invested in their well-being, they are more likely to have positive health outcomes. Patients who are satisfied with both the care they receive and the results they achieve are more likely to remain loyal to their physicians.
Psychographic Segmentation & Physician Empathy
Even with these tips, practicing empathy can seem challenging, especially because every person is different and communicates in unique ways. If you’re feeling lost, psychographic segmentation can help you understand your patients’ desires, motivations, preferences and lifestyles based on their answers to a short survey.
By identifying your patients’ psychographic segments, you can learn who prefers to receive text messages and who prefers a live phone call. You can understand how they approach their healthcare and general wellness, as well as what topics are most important to them. These insights can help you know what information to bring up during their appointment to provide them additional, meaningful value.
Increasing physician empathy is an effective, sustainable way to improve patient loyalty. As physicians begin to communicate more deeply with their patients, they develop meaningful connections and become stronger advocates for their care. Patients who feel listened to, respected and genuinely cared for are much more likely to be loyal to their providers who treat them in this way. After all, people want others to treat them as people.
For more on PatientBond’s proven and proprietary psychographic segmentation model and its impact on patient loyalty, download our case study.