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Physician Rapport With Obese Patients

Physician Rapport With Obese Patients

Recent studies suggest that obese patients may be vulnerable to poorer physician–patient communication because some doctors may hold negative attitudes toward these individuals. “Prior studies have shown that some physicians have less respect for their obese patients, viewing them as being lazy or unmotivated,” explains Kimberly A. Gudzune, MD, MPH. “These negative attitudes may come across during patient encounters.” Yet, no studies had previously assessed whether patient obesity altered physician–patient interactions with regard to biomedical and psychosocial dialogue and rapport building. In a study published in Obesity, Dr. Gudzune and colleagues sought to address this research gap by analyzing audio recordings of visits by 208 patients with high blood pressure who saw 39 primary care physicians (PCPs). Empathy Matters According to the study, patient weight did not appear to play a role in the quantity of physicians’ medical questions and advice, counseling, or treatment regimen discussions. However, PCPs built significantly less emotional rapport with their obese patients than with those who were normal weight. PCPs were more likely to show empathy, concern, and understanding with patients of normal weight by using words and phrases that reassured and legitimized patients’ feelings, regardless of the medical topic being discussed.   The findings raise concern about how these low levels of emotional rapport may impact obese patients, according to Dr. Gudzune. “This may weaken the physician–patient relationship,” she says. “It may also reduce the likelihood that patients will adhere to their doctor’s recommendations and may decrease the effectiveness of behavior-change counseling, which are vital elements to helping obese patients lose weight and improve health.” Building an Alliance Patients usually resent feeling that they are...
Communication Etiquette in Medical Training

Communication Etiquette in Medical Training

Patient-centered communication can impact several aspects of the patient-doctor relationship, including disclosure of illness-related information and compliance with medical recommendations. Etiquette-based medicine involves simple patient-centered communication strategies that convey professionalism and respect to patients. “Research has shown that patients prefer physicians who practice etiquette-based medicine behaviors, most notably those who sit down and introduce themselves,” says Leonard S. Feldman, MD. Little is known, however, about  whether physicians in training are actually performing these easy-to-practice behaviors. An In-Depth Look In a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, Dr. Feldman and colleagues sought to understand whether etiquette-based communication behaviors were practiced by trainees on inpatient medicine rotations. Trained observers followed 29 internal medicine interns in their first year out of medical school at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center for 3 weeks. They witnessed 732 inpatient encounters and used an iPod Touch application to record whether the interns employed five key strategies in etiquette-based communication: 1) introducing oneself, 2) explaining one’s role in the patient’s care, 3) touching the patient, 4) asking open-ended questions, and 5) sitting down with the patient.   According to the findings, interns touched their patients—defined as either a physical exam or simply a handshake or a gentle, caring touch—during 65% of visits and asked open-ended questions 75% of the time. However, they introduced themselves only 40% of the time, explained their role in just 37% of cases, and sat down during only 9% of visits (Table). The study subjects performed all five of the recom-mended etiquette-based communication behaviors during just 4% of all patient encounters. Interns were only slightly more...
The Effect of Health Literacy on Asthma Control

The Effect of Health Literacy on Asthma Control

Studies have shown that only about half of American adults have basic reading and numerical skills, and a lack of these skills can compromise health literacy. Low health literacy has been associated with poorer health outcomes, higher health costs, and reduced patient satisfaction with healthcare providers. “Low health literacy is especially prevalent among patients with low socioeconomic status, the elderly, and those whose primary language is not English,” explains Andrea J. Apter, MD, MSc. “This reflects the limited educational opportunities that are available for these patient groups. In these same patients, the prevalence of asthma morbidity is high.” Low numeric literacy or numeracy has also been linked to lower asthma-related quality of life (QOL) and prior ED visits and hospitalizations for asthma. Numeric & Print Literacy The mechanisms governing the relationship between low health literacy and poor outcomes in asthma have not been well defined in clinical research. To address this gap, Dr. Apter and colleagues conducted a study to assess whether literacy is related to subsequent asthma self-management and asthma outcomes. Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the study assessed numeric and print literacy in adults with moderate or severe asthma and its impact on subsequent electronically monitored adherence and asthma outcomes for 26 weeks.   According to findings, participants with higher health literacy had better asthma-related QOL and improved disease control than those with lower health literacy. For every point higher that patients scored on a measure of health-related print literacy, better QOL and asthma control was observed, as indicated by a 0.63-unit increase in the Mini-Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire and a 0.52-point...
Examining Physician Rx Drug Abuse

Examining Physician Rx Drug Abuse

Substance use is one of the most frequent causes of impairment among physicians, and some reports estimate that 10% to 15% of doctors will have a substance use disorder in their lifetime. “Substance-related impairment among physicians is a serious problem, with significant consequences for patient safety and public health,” says Lisa J. Merlo, PhD, MPE. “The rate of physician substance use is similar to that of the general population, but physicians are more likely to misuse prescription drugs. Understanding the reasons for prescription drug misuse may help us more successfully identify, treat, and monitor addicted physicians.” A key challenge to treating substance use disorders is that most physicians do not refer themselves for treatment, making it difficult to collect data on this issue. One strategy is to partner with physician health programs (PHPs) to recruit study participants. PHPs were established to ensure that distressed or impaired physicians are treated and monitored for the long term so that they can safely return to practice. “Studies have shown that nearly 80% of physicians who participate in PHPs remain substance free—with no relapse—at 5 years follow-up,” Dr. Merlo says. “Unfortunately, many doctors with substance use disorders have these problems for years before they seek help or are referred to a PHP.” Exploring the Issue Despite the impact of substance use among physicians, few analyses have looked at prescription drug misuse in this population. Studies have suggested that access to prescription medications may increase the risk of substance abuse among physicians. However, Dr. Merlo says that more information is needed to understand the reasons for prescription drug misuse among physicians and to develop...
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