Patients' trust in physicians may affect pain level, study finds

A new study suggests patients experience more pain and pain-related brain activity when they perceive their physicians as less trustworthy. 

Researchers from the University of Miami published their findings Aug. 24 in Cerebral CortexThey conducted medical simulations where participants underwent a series of painful procedures with different virtual physicians who appeared more or less trustworthy. Researchers measured participants' brain activity during the medical simulations using functional MRI. 

The virtual physicians were images of people in white physician coats with faces created using an algorithm to make them appear more or less trustworthy. 

Researchers found patients reported the simulated diagnostic procedures — which involved heat simulations on participants' arms — were more painful and unpleasant when performed by physicians they perceived as less trustworthy. They also found more activity in a number of pain-related brain regions when the simulated procedure was led by physicians perceived as less trustworthy compared to more trustworthy. 

"The takeaway from this study is not necessarily that we need to train doctors to make different facial expressions. Rather, our results demonstrate that even small changes to the doctor-patient relationship may be enough to decrease patients' pain," said Steven Anderson, PhD, study author and recent graduate of University of Miami Psychology. 

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars