Yuguero O, Marsal JR, Esquerda M, Galvan L, Soler-Gonzalez J. Cross-sectional study of the association between empathy and burnout and drug prescribing quality in primary care. Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2019 Oct 30;20:e145. doi: 10.1017/S1463423619000793

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess whether burnout and empathy levels among general practitioners (GPs) might influence prescribing performance assessed using pharmaceutical prescription quality standard indicators.

DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional descriptive study of 108 GPs from 22 primary care centers in Lleida, Spain, and of centralized data corresponding to 183 600 patients under their care. The study was conducted between May and July 2014.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Burnout and empathy were measured using the Spanish versions of the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the Jefferson Scale for Physician Empathy, and prescribing quality was measured using the Catalan Pharmaceutical Prescription Quality Standard (EQPF). Normal distribution of scores was verified using the Chi-square and Kolmogorov-Smirnov-Lilliefors tests. The effect of each of the variables was evaluated using crude odds ratios.

RESULTS: Older GPs scored significantly higher in the EQPF (P < 0.05). High empathy scores were positively associated with high EQPF scores. GPs with low burnout also performed better in the EQPF.

CONCLUSIONS: More empathic, less burned-out, older GPs showed better prescribing performance according to quality indicators. However, further studies are needed to evaluate other factors influencing prescribing habits. The promotion of communication skills may increase empathy and reduce burnout, thus benefiting patients.

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