New Research Links Clinician-Patient Relationship with Treatment Outcomes

Posted: May 9th, 2014

A meta-analysis of studies that investigated measures designed to improve health professionals’ interactions with patients confirms that such efforts can produce health effects just as beneficial as taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack. In contrast to previous such reviews, the current report from the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) only included randomized, controlled trials with more reliable results than those included in earlier studies. While it has long been believed that a good patient-clinician relationship can improve health outcomes, objective evidence to support that belief has been hard to come by.

“Although the effect we found was small, this is the first analysis of the combined results of previous studies to show that relationship factors really do make a difference in patients’ health outcomes,” says Helen Riess, MD, (pictured above) Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, senior author of the report in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.