Effective provider-patient communication and the relationships that it supports are located at the centre of quality health-care delivery. The patient-centred approach is increasingly seen as an effective way to provide effective patient care, being more sensitive and responsive to the needs of the individual. Empathy has been identified as a core component of "patient-centredness" but definitions often lack conceptual clarity. This paper proposes to clarify the definition of empathy keeping the discussion true to Rogers' original definitions of the concept whilst integrating the work of other writers. A major thrust is the development of an innovative conceptual model of empathy which has the potential to both integrate previous research findings and provide a framework for future research and training. The model is based in social psychological conceptions of attitude.