Empathy, enablement, and outcome: an exploratory study on acupuncture patients' perceptions

H. McPherson, S.W. Mercer, T. Scullion, K.J. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To conduct an exploratory, retrospective study of acupuncture patients' perceptions of practitioner empathy, patient enablement, and health outcome, and to investigate the associations between them. Methods: In a retrospective, observational study, questionnaires were distributed to 192 patients randomly selected from a population of 6348 who, several months previously, had participated in a survey of acupuncture safety, and had agreed to be contacted again. The main measures included patients' perceptions of their practitioners' empathy using the Consultation and Relational Empathy Measure, the Patient Enablement Instrument, and the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital Outcome Scale (measuring change in main complaint and well-being). Results: A total of 143 (74%) patients responded (27% men and 73% women) with an average age of 51 years. Comparisons between the population, the sample selected, and the responding sample showed reasonable equivalence. The majority of patients (71%) were in the middle of an ongoing course of treatment at the time of completing the questionnaires for this study. 36% of patients were attending for reasons of "general well-being," 34% for musculoskeletal problems, 11% for emotional or psychological problems, and 19% for other reasons. Empathy and enablement scores were not influenced by age or reason for attendance, but men showed significantly lower scores than women (p < 0.05). Patient enablement was significantly positively correlated with perception of their practitioners' empathy (Spearman's ρ = 0.256, p < 0.01). Enablement in turn was strongly positively correlated with the outcome of both the main complaint (ρ = 0.457, p < 0.0001) and improved well-being (ρ = 0.521, p < 0.0001). Conclusion: Patients' perceptions of consultations with their acupuncturists suggest that their experience of empathy is significantly associated with patient enablement, which in turn is highly correlated with improved self-reported health outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-876
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2004


Dive into the research topics of 'Empathy, enablement, and outcome: an exploratory study on acupuncture patients' perceptions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this