Physician Empathy Scores Increase With Eye Contact, Study Finds

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Physicians who make plenty of eye contact are more likely to receive high empathy ratings from patients, according to a study published in the Journal of Participatory Medicine.

Researchers examined videotapes of 110 first-time encounters between patients reporting cold symptoms and primary care physicians. All physicians referenced paper charts and spent just less than four minutes with each patient. After the encounter, patients completed a questionnaire on how much their perception of the physician's empathy.

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While social touch and length of visit influenced empathy scores, amount of eye contact was most associated with high empathy scores.

The study concluded deconstructing the importance of body language in the patient-physician interaction is vital for healthcare's ability to integrate a human element into increasingly automated technologies and practice aids.

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