Enhancing empathy in healthcare: mixed-method evaluation of a pilot project implementing the CARE Approach in primary and community care settings in Scotland

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Fitzgerald, Niamh M ; Heywood, Susie ; Bikker, Annemieke P ; Mercer, Stewart W (2014)

<b>Background</b> The importance of empathic, person-centred care that is responsive to the individual patients’ needs is increasingly visible in national and international healthcare policies but there is a need for practical tools to help healthcare practitioners. The CARE Approach is a new ‘generic’ learning tool that aims to foster the achievement of empathic, person-centred communication in healthcare encounters. This study aimed to evaluate a pilot project which used the CARE Approach in peer facilitated groups in primary and community healthcare settings in Scotland.<p></p>\ud \ud <b>Methods</b> The CARE Approach was piloted in 5 sites (4 general practice and 1 community rehabilitation team) serving different areas and populations. Evaluation employed a mixed-methods approach, with questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of participating facilitators and healthcare practitioners.<p></p>\ud \ud <b>Results</b> 131 practitioners took part in the CARE Approach pilot across the five sites. 84 participants (64.1%) completed a baseline questionnaire and 51 (38.9%) a post-pilot questionnaire. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with all facilitators and with a purposive sample of 23 participants from the sites. Overall the results indicate that the CARE Approach was perceived as useful and relevant to practice across different disciplines and settings. The flexibility of the CARE Approach materials facilitated its delivery and implementation across the sites. Healthcare professionals’ self-perceived empathy at baseline and follow-up suggested a possible impact on daily practice.<p></p>\ud \ud <b>Conclusions</b> The CARE Approach appears to be useful to practitioners in primary and community care and can feasibly be delivered in peer facilitated learning groups. Further work is required to determine the utility of the approach when used in other ways and in other settings and to ascertain the effectiveness of the approach in the longer-term.
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