Technology Should be Used to boost Empathy-Based Medicine Royal Society Asserts


Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dr Jeremy Howick and Dr Sian Rees of the Oxford Empathy Programme, say a new paradigm of empathy-based medicine is needed to improve patient outcomes, reduce practitioner burnout and save money.

Existing digital technologies must be exploited to enable a paradigm shift in current healthcare delivery which focuses on tests, treatments and targets rather than the therapeutic benefits of empathy, according to the eminent physicians.

Empathy-based medicine, they suggest, re-establishes relationship as the heart of healthcare.

“Time pressure, conflicting priorities and bureaucracy can make practitioners less likely to express empathy. By re-establishing the clinical encounter as the heart of healthcare, and exploiting available technologies, this can change”, Howick, a Senior Researcher in Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, commented.

It is known that technology is already available that could reduce the burden of practitioner paperwork by gathering basic information prior to consultation, for example via email or a mobile device in the waiting room.

For example, during the consultation, the computer screen could be placed so that both patient and clinician can see it.

This could enable infographics on risks and treatment options to aid decision-making and the joint development of a treatment plan.

Howick suggested that understanding of how this technology can be utilised effectively will develop in the immediate future.

“The spread of alternatives to face-to-face consultations is still in its infancy, as is our understanding of when a machine will do and when a person-to-person relationship is needed.”

However, Howick also believes that technology can be obstructive when used in an inappropriate fashion.

“A computer screen can become a barrier to communication rather than an aid to decision-making. “Patients and carers need to be involved in determining the need for, and designing, new technologies”.

‘Overthrowing barriers to empathy in healthcare: empathy in the age of the Internet’ (DOI: 10.1177/0141076817714443) by J Howick and S Rees has been published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine today.

It can be viewed at:

The JRSM is the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, and has been published continuously since 1809.

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Royal Society of Medicine Conference to Address School Sports Injuries

The Royal Society of Medicine has confirmed a conference programme aimed at reducing injuries in sport played at schools across the UK.

Tackling school sports injury will take place on Monday 14th September at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

The conference has attracted a panel of prestigious speakers, who will gather at the headquarters of the Royal Society of Medicine to discuss their areas of expertise.

Focus will particularly be placed on childhood injury resulting from sport participation, while attendees will also consider the implications of sport governing policy on the general health and well-being of children in the UK.

This has been a particular focus in Britain over the last few years, as the hosting of the London Olympics in London in 2012 was intended to herald a new era of sports participation.

But information released in July as part of Sport England’s annual active people survey suggests that the legacy of the Olympics has been mixed in terms of getting people involved in sport.

Tackling school sports injury will be chaired by Professor John Ashton, President of the RSM’s Epidemiology & Public Health Section, and Alysson Pollock, Professor of Public Health Research and Policy, Queen Mary University of London.

Pollock has a particularly strong grounding in this subject, having authored the tome “Tackling rugby: what every parent should know about injuries.”

Ahead of the meeting, Professor Ashton noted that sports injuries are an aspect of schooling that is perhaps often taken for granted and discounted.

“School sports are an essential part of every child’s experience. They contribute to health and wellbeing and character formation. In recent years there has been an increasing awareness of the inherent risks in some sports especially those with physical contact. It is important that we find ways for children to continue to participate in what is often an exciting part of their lives without compromising their future,” Ashton reflected.

Several high-profile speakers have been lined up for the conference, as the Royal Society of medicine endeavours to deliver and engaging and enlightening event.

Mr John Ridge, Director of Health and Safety at Ampleforth College will be among the speakers. Ampleforth has a particularly strong sporting reputation, having educated three recent rugby union internationals, including England captain Lawrence Dallaglio.

The school also frequently hosts the annual Bunbury English Schools’ Cricket Festival, which has featured a host of top international cricketers over the years.

Ampleforth has nurtured a culture that challenges the notion that sports accidents are inevitable and should therefore not be afforded undue scrutiny or review, and Ridge will speak on this subject.

Professor Jack Anderson, Professor of Law at Queen’s University, Belfast, will discuss the legal implications of the concussion ‘crisis’ for sport while Mr Errol Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, will discuss the potential for improvement in injury prevention arising from school sports.

Finally, Dr Trish Gorley, University of Stirling, will discuss the perception of sport participation among children, and Professor Eric Anderson, University of Winchester, will give a lecture titled Organised, competitive sport: A cycle of abuse. 

 The conference is one of 400 academic and public meetings that are organised by the society annually.

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