Cross-sectional study of the association between healthcare professionals’ empathy and burnout and the number of annual primary care visits per patient under their care in Spain

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Yuguero Torres, OriolYuguero Torres, Oriol - ORCID ID
Melnick, Edward R
Marsal Mora, Josep RamonMarsal Mora, Josep Ramon - ORCID ID
Esquerda i Aresté, MontseEsquerda i Aresté, Montse - ORCID ID
Soler González, JorgeSoler González, Jorge - ORCID ID
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cc-by-nc (c) Oriol Yuguero et al., 2018
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Objective The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between physician and nurse self-reported empathy and burnout and the number of annual primary care visits per patient under their care. Methods Design: A cross-sectional survey study was conducted from January 2013 to July 2014. Site: The 22 primary care centres of the Lleida Health Region in Spain. Main outcome measures: The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy and the Maslach Burnout Inventory were used to measure empathy and burnout, respectively. The number of visits and the number of diagnoses coded per visit were obtained through the Region’s electronic health record. results Two hundred and sixty-seven healthcare professionals (physicians and nurses, 52.6% participation of the total in the region) with 301 657 patients under their care. Healthcare professionals’ degree of burnout and empathy was associated with the number of annual visits per patient under their care. Burned out nurses and physicians received fewer visits (4.5vs3.7 in nurses and 18.1vs18.9 in physicians), whereas more empathic physicians received more visits per patient (19.4vs17.2, p<0.05) and documented more diagnoses per visit (10.2vs9.7, p=0.001). Less burned out and less empathic nurses documented more diagnoses per visit (10.2vs10.0 and 8.2vs9.9, p<0.05). Conclusions The number of annual primary care visits per patient that healthcare professionals receive is closely associated with healthcare professionals’ empathy and burnout. These results should serve to promote empathic skills and establish organisational changes that promote efficiency in the practice and, in turn, reduce the degree of burnout of healthcare professionals.
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BMJ Open, 2018, vol. 8, e020949