Physician-patient communication is linked to severity of symptoms, study finds

Physicians who do not communicate belief in or understanding of their patients could actually cause patient symptoms to worsen, according to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine.

Researchers analyzed consultations of five women with chronic pain and interviewed them after their appointments. They found the women did not feel their physicians were invested in them or that the physicians provided insight on their conditions, and as a result felt hopeless, angry and the desire to avoid care or further justify their symptoms, according to a statement. Consultants reported the patients would not accept their diagnosis and held rooted views, according to the report.

"Our work indicates that the effects of patients feeling that their doctor doesn't believe or understand them can be damaging both emotionally and physiologically. This could lead to worsening of illness, known as the 'nocebo response'. Patients bring certain beliefs and expectations to their health care professional, which are molded by the culture they live in, and their previous experiences. Their expectations will undoubtedly affect the outcome, but improving communication in consultations could make a big difference to patient care," lead author Maddy Greville-Harris, PhD, said.


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