Get to know Empathetics: a company using scientifically proven methods that enhance human relationships and make medical practice more effective and efficient.
An interview with Helen Riess, MD, Founder and CEO of Empathetics
What is the story or inspiration behind starting Empathetics?
I founded Empathetics to help all institutions achieve their goals of becoming compassionate organizations. Empathetics was founded after years of research aimed at answering the question, “Can empathy be taught?” This was inspired by a need to improve physician and nurse empathy in health care. As a psychiatrist, I was hearing a lot of dissatisfaction with the degree of caring and compassion from my patients, which was indicative of a much broader empathy deficit in healthcare. I realized that this deficit was harming patient care and many were giving up on making important changes for their health and wellbeing. By doing this research, my research team set out to learn whether empathy and relational skills could be enhanced to reverse the current trends. It was a very powerful motivator for my team to help physicians and nurses to do their best for patients. Because we tested the neuroscience-based empathy education intervention in a rigorous scientific randomized controlled trial, we discovered that it is possible to teach empathy and improve the patient experience.
What is the unmet need or challenge that Empathetics is addressing?
Initially, the need was to enhance the patient experience by providing empathy education and skills to people delivering health care. However, now the vision has grown to meet other very important needs in health care, and that is also providing self-empathy education for healthcare professionals. There is a great resignation in healthcare workers and many of them have left their professions, especially during and after the pandemic. Many have lost their love of their jobs, and there is a tremendous degree of burnout. The need for self-empathy and self-care has never been greater in modern times. In an aim to address this need, Empathetics offers empathy training and workshops to help organizations pivot from people leaving their professions to supporting them through a path of healing and recovering to re-ignite their passion for their work in addition to our traditional empathy education for patient care.
What is unique about your approach?
The most unique thing about Empathetics’ approach is that we offer the first and only evidence-based empathy education intervention that has been rigorously tested in scientific studies and also in the field with our clients. Therefore, we know that the training and education we provide will improve empathic care in medical and surgical specialties in health care. Another unique quality is that we teach empathy from the inside out. So, instead of telling people to shake hands and be polite, our courses allow people to get a view into what happens internally when there is an emotional disconnection between each other by showing physiological displays of emotions and what to do to restore connections between people.
By using physiologic tracing to show when two people are in a conflict or feeling misunderstood, we can determine how that affects their emotions and how that understanding affects how someone will repair gaps in empathy. We teach the art of curiosity to bring people to reach a mutual level of understanding.
How are you thinking about the impact that your product creates for the world or the market you are in?
We are getting positive feedback that our self-empathy course is creating a significant healing environment for people to refuel and enjoy their jobs again. People who are taking the courses feel more empowered and motivated once they, themselves, have been understood. By taking care of themselves, they have the energy to show greater empathy and compassion, which leads to a tremendous impact on both the workers and the patients that they serve. Remember, you can’t get water from an empty pitcher. Healthcare organizations need to recognize when their workforce has been so traumatized by the tremendous needs, threats, and actual physical danger from going to work, so they can provide pathways for recovery. Healthcare professionals can implement empathy skills and compassion most effectively when they first take care of themselves.
What is the next most important milestone for Empathetics?
The Learnlaunch Fund +Accelerator program is called ‘Breakthrough to Scale,’ and our next milestone is to enable the adoption of our programs into more healthcare systems and hospitals and to develop channel partnerships to sell our E-learning more broadly and rapidly. Some of our channel partners are medical liability insurance companies who understand that one of the ways to decrease medical malpractice claims is to have strong communication skills and have healthcare workers demonstrate care and empathy, especially when things may go wrong. It is critical to stay closely attuned and open in communication with patients throughout their healthcare journey. We are also developing other distribution channels to take our products to scale. And we have a wonderful team which is critical to take us to the next level!
Learn more about Empathetics here.