Patient-doc communication: Listen carefully when patients tell you they don't feel well

When patients say they don’t feel well, doctors should listen because there are likely underlying biologic reasons, according to a new study.

The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, found that when patients said they didn’t feel well, they indeed had high virus and inflammation levels. On the other hand, when patients said they felt well, they had low levels.

“I think the take-home message is that self-reported health matters,” Christopher P. Fagundes, an assistant psychology professor at Rice University and a co-author of the study, told The New York Times.  “Physicians should pay close to attention to their patients. There are likely biological mechanisms underlying why they feel their health is poor.”

The researchers used data from 1,200 people who participated in the Texas City Stress and Health Study, which tracked the stress and health levels of patients living near Houston. The participants completed a self-report measure of their health and a blood draw. They were analyzed for markers of inflammation and the activity of latent herpes virus. Higher self-reported health was associated with less reactivation of latent herpes viruses, the study found.

Investing in education to help doctors communicate with their patients can pay off for physician practices, as FiercePracticeManagement reported.

- read the study abstract
- find the article