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Perception of Physician Empathy Varies With Educational Level and Gender of Patients Undergoing Low-Yield Computerized Tomographic Imaging.

  • Author(s): Kline, Jeffrey A
  • Lin, Michelle P
  • Hall, Cassandra L
  • Puskarich, Michael A
  • Dehon, Erin
  • Kuehl, Damon R
  • Wang, Ralph C
  • Hess, Erik P
  • Runyon, Michael S
  • Wang, Hao
  • Courtney, D Mark
  • et al.


Lack of empathic communication between providers and patients may contribute to low value diagnostic testing in emergency care. Accordingly, we measured the perception of physician empathy and trust in patients undergoing low-value computed tomography (CT) in the emergency department (ED).


Multicenter study of ED patients undergoing CT scanning, acknowledged by ordering physicians as unlikely to show an emergent condition. Near the end of their visit, patients completed the Jefferson Scale of Patient Perception of Physician Empathy (JSPPPE), Trust in Physicians Survey (TIPS), and the Group Based Medical Mistrust Scale (GBMMS). We stratified results by patient demographics including gender, race, and education.


We enrolled 305 participants across 9 sites with diverse geographic, racial, and ethnic representation. The median scores (interquartile ranges) for the JSPPPE, TIPS, and GBMMS for all patients were 29 (24-33.5), 55 (47-62), and 18 (12-29). Compared with white patients, nonwhite patients had similar JSPPPE and TIPS scores but had higher (worse) GBMMS scores. Females had significantly lower JSPPPE and TIPS scores than males, and scores were lower (worse) in females with college degrees. Patients in the lowest tier of educational status had the highest (better) JSPPPE and TIPS scores. Scores were invariant with physician characteristics.


Among patients undergoing low-value CT scanning in the ED, the degree of patient perception of physician empathy and trust varied based on the patients' level of education and gender. Given this variation, an intervention to increase patient perception of physician empathy should contain individualized strategies to address these subgroups, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

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