Harvard Health Letter

Doctor-patient relationship improves your health



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Do you have a good rapport with your physician? A study from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital finds that improving the doctor-patient relationship can produce health effects as beneficial as some common treatments, such as taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack. Researchers analyzed more than a dozen randomized controlled trials—the gold standard of research—and found that training health care professionals in relationship strategies led to better health outcomes for their patients. Strategies included making more eye contact with patients, paying close attention to their emotions, and helping them set goals. "A good relationship fosters better communication, which improves diagnosis. It also encourages people to tell their doctors about symptoms they might not otherwise disclose," says the study's lead author Dr. John Kelley, a psychologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Kelley adds a good relationship with your doctor makes it more likely that you'll follow a recommended treatment and believe it will work, which can increase the treatment's success. What if your relationship with your doctor isn't the best? "Clinicians work for you, and it ,s perfectly fine to bring up any concerns. Just as in any relationship, be tactful in how you bring up concerns. If this discussion does not result in an improvement in the clinical relationship, you can certainly seek out another clinician with whom you can form a closer bond," advises Dr. Kelley.

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