Profiles of GPs with high and low self-reported physician empathy—personal, professional, and antibiotic prescribing characteristics

Troels Kristensen*, Charlotte Ejersted, Peder Ahnfeldt-Mollerup, Jens Søndergaard, Justin A. Charles


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Background: General Practitioners’ (GPs) professional empathy has been hypothesized to have substantial impact on their healthcare delivery and medication prescribing patterns. This study compares profiles of personal, professional, and antibiotic prescribing characteristics of GPs with high and low empathy. Methods: We apply an extreme group approach to a unique combined set of survey and drug register data. The survey included questions about demographic, professional, and antibiotic prescribing characteristics, as well as the Jefferson Scale of Empathy for Health Professionals (JSE-HP) to assess self-reported physician empathy. It was sent to a stratified sample of 1,196 GPs comprising 30% of the Danish GP population of whom 464 (38.8%) GPs responded. GPs in the top and bottom decile of empathy levels were identified. All intra- and inter-profile descriptive statistics and differences were bootstrapped to estimate the variability and related confidence intervals. Results: 61% of GPs in the top decile of the empathy score were female. GPs in this decile reported the following person-centered factors as more important for their job satisfaction than the bottom decile: The Patient-physician relationship, interaction with colleagues, and intellectual stimulation. High-empathy scoring GPs prescribed significantly less penicillin than the low-empathy GPs. This was true for most penicillin subcategories. There were no significant differences in age, practice setting (urban vs. rural), practice type (partnership vs. single-handed), overall job satisfaction, or GP’s value of prestige and economic profit for their job satisfaction. The intra profile variation index and confidence intervals show less prescribing uncertainty among GPs with high empathy. Conclusions: This study reveals that high empathy GPs may have different personal, professional, and antibiotic prescribing characteristics than low empathy GPs and have less variable empathy levels as a group. Furthermore, person-centered high empathy GPs on average seem to prescribe less penicillins than low empathy GPs.

TidsskriftBMC Primary Care
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 20. sep. 2022

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by Fonden for Almen Praksis. The funder had no role in study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the writing of the report, nor the decision to submit the article for publication.

Funding Information:
We thank Helle Reintoft Andersen, administrative staff at University of Southern Denmark, for her contribution to the collection of the data. We also thank anonymous referees. All methods were carried out in accordance with relevant guidelines and regulations.


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