Encouraging words from physicians significantly improve patients’ health outcomes

When physicians are warm and reassuring, health outcomes of patients may improve significantly, according to two social psychologists, Lauren Howe and Kari Leibowitz from Stanford (Calif.) University.

In a recent study conducted by one of the authors, researchers recruited 76 participants to receive a skin prick allergy assessment test.

The provider in the study pricked participants’ forearms with histamine. This makes the skin itchy and red. The physician then observed the allergic reactions. In few cases, the physician examined the patient without saying much. While for other patients, the physicians gave words of encouragement.

The physician said, “From this point forward, your allergic reaction will start to diminish, and your rash and irritation will go away."

This assurance led patients to say their reactions were less itchy though physicians didn’t provide medication. This proves that physician’s words might be more powerful than we realize. The authors found that physicians failing to connect with their patients may risk undermining treatment success.

Artificial Intelligence promises that we don’t need to go to the doctor for minor questions, but we cannot ignore the value added by the interaction with a human doctor.

Patient-provider communication play an important role in healing patients.