Background: The Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) Measure has been developed as a tool for assessing the patients' perceptions of relational empathy in the consultation.
Objectives: The present paper provides performance data on the CARE measure in a large sample of general practice consultations in areas of high and low deprivation.
Methods: The CARE Measure was included in a self-completed questionnaire study involving 3044 patients attending 26 GPs in 26 different practices (16 in areas of high socio-economic deprivation and 10 in low deprivation areas, in the west of Scotland).
Results: GPs and patients, in both high and low deprivation settings, endorsed the relevance of the CARE Measure. Overall, 76% of patients rated the measure as being 'very important' to their current consultation. Higher rating of importance were observed in older patients, patients consulting with psycho-social problems, patients with long-standing illness or disability, and patients with significant emotional distress. Few patients rated individual CARE Measure items as being 'not applicable' to their current consultation; only 3.1% of patients felt that more than 2 of the 10 items in the measure did not apply to their current consultation. Mean values were not influenced by deprivation, gender, reason for consulting, chronic illness, or emotional distress. Correlational analysis indicated that a sample size of 50 patients is sufficient to reliably estimate mean CARE score for an individual GP.
Conclusions: These results indicate that the CARE Measure is considered by GPs and patients alike as being of direct relevance to everyday consultations in general practice, in both high and low deprivation settings. The measures is stable across patient groups and a reliable estimate of perceived GP empathy requires 50 completed questionnaires per doctor.