Teaching Empathy in Healthcare: from Mirror Neurons to Education Technology Article

Foster, A, Trieu, M, Azutillo, E et al. (2017). Teaching Empathy in Healthcare: from Mirror Neurons to Education Technology . 2(2), 94-105. 10.1007/s41347-017-0019-1

cited authors

  • Foster, A; Trieu, M; Azutillo, E; Halan, S; Lok, B


  • While modern medicine is moving towards genetically based personalized treatment, we still marvel daily at the healing power of the therapeutic relationships with patients. We are now closer to understanding where in the brain lies our capacity to view the world from the perspective of other people. Empathy is the ability to identify another person’s feelings and experiences and to view the world from their perspective. In healthcare provider–patient interaction, empathy improves interpersonal communication, fosters therapeutic alliance, correlates with patient and provider satisfaction, and improves patient care outcomes. Although the importance of empathy in healthcare is widely accepted, further work is due in clarifying the dimensions of empathy that are amenable to teaching and defining the role of healthcare providers’ and patients’ perception of empathy in treatment outcomes. Herein we will (1) provide a brief overview of neurobiology of empathy, (2) discuss the dimensions and conceptualizations of empathy as they apply to healthcare professions, and (3) discuss the body of literature on empathy teaching interventions, including technology options, with focus on virtual patient technology for medical, nursing, and allied health professions education.

publication date

  • June 1, 2017

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 94

end page

  • 105


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