Physician Empathy: Development and Preliminary Validation and Reliability Testing of Two Rating Scales




Edwards, Emily A.

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The aim of this study was to develop and pilot test two valid and reliable rating scales to measure physician empathy observed by raters through two different channels of communication ( verbal and emotional tone) from the perspective of patients visiting their primary care physician. Four subscales were developed (Verbal: Affiliation, Patient Centeredness; Emotional Tone: Positive Affect, Physician Involvement). A secondary aim was to investigate group differences in empathy scores between high stress and low stress physicians. It was expected that physicians in the high stress category would be rated as having less observed empathy than those in the low stress category. Contrary to what was hypothesized, results of this study concluded that high stress physicians demonstrated more empathy than low stress physicians on both the Affiliation and Positive Affect subscales. No other significant differences in empathy ratings between high and low stress physicians were found. Physician empathic communication (Affiliation, Patient Centeredness, Positive Affect, and Physician Involvement) was correlated with the patient satisfaction subscale, Physician, Information Giving; and Patient Centeredness was correlated with the patient satisfaction subscale, Patient Choice, demonstrating predictive validity. Physician stress was correlated with physician control over his or her practice situation. Implications for future studies, physician training, and managed health care providers are discussed.



patient satisfaction, physicians, empathy, communication, health surveys, testing, medicine, statistical methods


Edwards, E. A. (2009). Physician empathy: Development and preliminary validation and reliability testing of two rating scales (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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