Book Review: An Epidemic of Empathy

“The best strategies in healthcare begin with empathy.”

An Epidemic of Empathy in Healthcare: How to Deliver Compassionate, Connected Patient Care that Creates a Competitive Advantage by Thomas H. Lee was kind of a mouthful of a book. It attracted me, predictably, because I am serious about empathy in healthcare.

I’ve seen many examples of healthcare where empathy is lacking, and it breaks me. And, as I have progressed in my own career, I have witnessed in myself instances where my ability to empathise has been eroded, too. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for medical students and young doctors to notice how they become hardened during the early years of their clinical training.

The book starts with an elaboration on the importance of empathy – not in a touchy-feely sense, but in the sense that it improves efficacy and patient care.

What I really enjoyed is the amount of evidence-based information regarding empathy in healthcare.

It recognizes the factors that lead to reduced physician empathy – well, it’s empathetic with physicians, which is fairly rare in a world that expects healthcare workers to be without weakness.empathy quote

I cannot say that it reads easily: the book took me more than a month to read. The chapter on social network media is incredibly well researched but the most difficult to read.

Although this book offered fantastic views on modern healthcare, I think ultimately it was a bit of a let-down for me purely because it was so American-centric. Of course, I knew it would be set in the USA; but the implications are that it is in a setting where healthcare really is a business; and it does not address the fact that in much of the world, it is not. In much of the world, patient retention is not a business imperative.

Additionally, the emphasis of empathy as a means to provide a competitive advantage was harder for me to deal with than I anticipated. I just have not reached that point where I’m comfortable with healthcare as a business.

I would recommend this book for its great insight into empathy as a concept; but beware that it is also partially a book about healthcare as a business. Some of the chapters are invaluable to students in healthcare, psychology and economics; but the book in its entirety is certainly aimed at the physician-businessman and other in healthcare management. If you are in such a sector then this is a must-read.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from McGraw-Hill Professional and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

1 Comment

  1. The Elderly Young Adult says:

    It makes me so happy seeing books like this being written, but so saddening to see how healthcare is turning into a business in certain parts of the world – even in SA in the private sector. Compassion fatigue is a real thing and sometimes empathy is so hard to maintain in our context. I might give this book a go 🙂

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