Annals of Family Medicine publishes article by TCOM students highlighting value of empathic doctors

LicciardoneThe Annals of Family Medicine recently published an article written by students from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine that shows patients with chronic pain value empathic doctors who validate their concerns and communicate clearly.

The four students, Salman Patel, Prathima Kandukuri, George Beeton and Ramyashree Nyalakonda, worked with Dr. John Licciardone, executive director of the TCOM Osteopathic Research Center and a UNT System Regents Professor.

The study, “Patient Satisfaction with Medical Care for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Pain Research Registry Study,” included 1,352 participants from the center’s Pain Registry for Epidemiological, Clinical, and Interventional Studies and Innovation, also known as the PRECISION Pain Research Registry.

“PRECISION has emerged to become a national pain research registry through its digital research platform and electronic data capture,” Licciardone said. “The registry also collects data on the patient-physician relationship that is not generally available in other research databases. We used this capability in the present study and in recent research on racial health disparities pertaining to chronic pain.”

The students were part of a Clinical Research Fellowship Program sponsored by the Osteopathic Research Center in conjunction with its PRECISION Pain Research Registry. Following their first year of medical school, the students measured the associations among process, outcomes and patient satisfaction within general medical care for chronic low back pain provided through an ongoing patient-physician relationship.

They used two models to measure factors associated with patient satisfaction, including the entire study sample and a subgroup of 355 participants with chronic low back pain who were treated by the same physician for more than five years.

Among the entire sample, only physician empathy and physician communication were associated with patient satisfaction. The multivariable analysis had built-in controls for participant demographic characteristics, medical comorbidities, opioid use, pain intensity, physical function and health-related quality of life. Similar results were observed in the subgroup analysis.

“Our findings supported the view that patients with chronic pain highly value physicians who are empathic and who make efforts to communicate treatment plans and expectations,” Nyalakonda said. “It was great to work with my teammates and Dr. Licciardone as we were able to receive a lot of advice and tips throughout the process of creating a poster and then converting it into a published paper. We are thrilled to be able to have a published paper in the Annals of Family Medicine.”

Relatively little research has been conducted on how patient-physician interaction impacts the process of delivering medical care for chronic low back pain and, ultimately, patient satisfaction. This study demonstrates the importance of the physician interaction with patients having chronic pain and often ill-defined symptoms. Physician empathy is now an area of rapidly emerging interest among chronic pain researchers.

“The objectives of the Clinical Research Fellowship Program not only involve teaching the fundamentals of research design and implementation, but also to have TCOM students learn about research collaboration and work with a research mentor to publish their research,” Licciardone said.

The full text of the article can be found here. To learn more about the Osteopathic Research Center or its PRECISION Pain Research Registry, contact Cathy Kearns at or 817-735-0515.

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