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Study: Physicians less likely to 'bond' with overweight patients
Date:4/22/2013

In a small study of 39 primary care doctors and 208 of their patients, Johns Hopkins researchers have found that physicians built much less of an emotional rapport with their overweight and obese patients than with their patients of normal weight.

Bonding and empathy are essential to the patient-physician relationship. When physicians express more empathy, studies have shown that patients are more likely to adhere to medical recommendations and respond to behavior-change counseling all vital elements in helping overweight and obese patients lose weight and improve health.

"If you aren't establishing a rapport with your patients, they may be less likely to adhere to your recommendations to change their lifestyles and lose weight," says Kimberly A. Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study published online in the journal Obesity. "Some studies have linked those bonding behaviors with patient satisfaction and adherence, while other studies have found that patients were more likely to change their dietary habits, increase exercise and attempt to lose weight when their physicians expressed more empathy. Without that rapport, you could be cheating the patients who need that engagement the most."

The researchers found that patient weight played no role in the quantity of physicians' medical questions, medical advice, counseling, or treatment regimen discussions. But when it came to things like showing empathy, concern and understanding, the doctors were significantly more likely to express those behaviors in interactions with patients of normal weight than with overweight and obese patients, regardless of the medical topic being discussed.

Obese patients may be particularly vulnerable to poorer physician-patient communications, Gudzune says, because studies show that physicians may hold negative attitu
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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