Breast cancer patient remembers more if doctor shows empathy

Breast cancer patient remembers more if doctor shows empathy

Patients who have incurable breast cancer will remember more information about their treatment if their doctors show more empathy in the conversation. This has emerged from research by Leiden University and Nivel. The publication has recently appeared in the scientific journal Patient Education and Counseling.

Patients who are incurably ill must remember a lot of information during every conversation with their doctor. "But we know from previous research that this is not that easy," says Van Vliet of Leiden University. Patients only remember about 20 to 60 percent of the information the doctor tells them. It is suspected that this is due to the stress caused by the conversation.

Increased empathy by physician improves information absorption; underlying mechanism unclear
"During our research, we found that when a doctor showed more empathy to the patient, they remembered significantly more information from the conversation. And especially information about the treatment goals or intended positive effects of the treatment, "says Van Vliet. Surprisingly, no link was found with reducing anxiety through the more empathetic attitude. "So we don't know the underlying mechanism by which empathy has this effect." For more information about the research, please open the publication or contact Liesbeth van Vliet:

This research project is part of the Nivel research program Communication in Healthcare (lead by prof. Sandra van Dulmen, PhD).