We investigated the associations of surgeons' emotional intelligence and surgeons' empathy with patient-surgeon relationships, patient perceptions of their health, and patient satisfaction before and after surgical procedures. We used multi-source approaches to survey 50 surgeons and their 549 outpatients during initial and follow-up visits. Surgeons' emotional intelligence had a positive effect (r =.45; p <.001) on patient-rated patient-surgeon relationships. Patient-surgeon relationships had a positive impact on patient satisfaction before surgery (r =.95; p <.001). Surgeon empathy did not have an effect on patient-surgeon relationships or patient satisfaction prior to surgery. But after surgery, surgeon empathy appeared to have a significantly positive and indirect effect on patient satisfaction through the mediating effect of patients' self-reported health status (r =.21; p <.001). Our study showed that long-term patient satisfaction with their surgeons is affected less by emotional intelligence than by empathy. Furthermore, empathy indirectly affects patient satisfaction through its positive effect on health outcomes, which have a direct effect on patients' satisfaction with their surgeons.
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