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Empathy in patient-clinician interactions when using telecommunication: A rapid review of the evidence

  • Budd, Georgina
  • Griffiths, Dan
  • Howick, Jeremy
  • Vennik, Jane
  • Bishop, Felicity L.
  • Durieux, Nancy
  • Everitt, Hazel A.
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2022
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peer reviewed / Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the replacement of many face-to-face healthcare consultations with telephone consultations. Little is known about the extent to which empathy can be expressed in telephone consultations. Our objective is to review evidence related to empathy in telephone consultations including clinical outcomes, and patient/practitioner experiences. Methods : Searches of Medline/Ovid and PsycINFO/Ovid were undertaken. Titles and abstract screening, data extraction, and risk of bias were undertaken by two reviewers. Discrepancies were resolved in discussion with additional reviewers. Included studies were specific to tele-communications with empirical data on empathy related to patient outcomes/views, published (in English), 2010–2021. Studies that did not mention empathy explicitly were excluded. Results: Our search yielded 740 individual records and 8 studies (527 patients, 20 practitioners) met inclusion criteria: Some barriers to expression of empathy were noted, but no major obstacles were reported. However, data was sparse and most studies had a high risk of bias. Conclusion: Empathy in telephone consultations is possible, (though the loss of non-verbal cues and touch can present barriers) however the research does not yet identify how. Innovation: It is possible to establish and display empathy in telephone consultations, but future research needs to identify how this can be optimized.

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