Francesco Bruggi

and 7 more

IIntroduction Physician empathy has been correlated with several outcomes in outpatient settings, demonstrating better prognosis in patients followed by highly empathetic doctors. Aim To correlate empathy of Internal Medicine ward physicians with readmission rates of patients they took care of. Methods We extracted readmission data of all patients discharged from Internal Medicine wards at our hospital between January 1st, 2011 and May 31st, 2017. Patients discharged to other institutions (nursing homes, rehabilitation units, other hospitals) were excluded. The 30-day readmission rate was recorded for each doctor. We measured the empathy of physicians who discharged more than 100 patients during that period, using the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) and the Empathy Components Questionnaire (ECQ). Correlation between empathy scores and readmission rate was weighted for the number of patients followed by each physician and adjusted for sex, age and relative cost weight of patients, as well as the doctor’s age. The same correlation was calculated in the subgroup of index patients discharged with Diagnosis Related Group 127 (DRG 127, Heart Failure and Shock). Results A total of 4280 index discharge events were identified, 383 of which (8.9%) were readmitted within 30 days. JSE scores were found out to be inversely correlated with readmission rates (coefficient -0.027, R2 0.181, p<0.001) whereas ECQ correlation was not significant after adjustment. A significant inverse correlation was also observed considering only the DRG 127 patients, with both Empathy scales (JSE and ECQ, coefficient -0.032 and -0.098, R2 0.303 and 0.326, p=0.050 and p<0.001, respectively). Conclusion Empathy of Internal Medicine physicians correlates with readmission rates of the patients they cared for, especially heart failure patients for whom this is a relevant outcome.