Good Communication Key to Rheumatoid Arthritis Care

It builds trust between doctor and patient, study finds

FRIDAY, May 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors skilled in communicating with patients do much better when it comes to treating the rheumatic diseases, a new study finds.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, say patient-centered communication helps build trust between doctor and patient -- a key factor in promoting improved quality of life, compliance with treatment, and better health outcomes.

In the study, the Texas team assessed 102 black, Hispanic and white patients with rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The patients filled out a questionnaire that asked about various aspects of their medical encounters, including doctors' ability to transmit information, sensitivity to concerns, reassurance and support, and patient-centered behavior (e.g. "My doctors always ask me what I need").

The researchers also evaluated the patients' willingness to disclose information to their doctors and their trust in the health-care system.

The team found that a patient's trust in their doctor was independently associated with ethnicity, quality of the patient-doctor relationship, disease activity, and trust in the health-care system. Hispanic and black patients tended to have a lower level of trust in the health-care system compared to white patients.

Patient-centered communication by doctors was the only variable that was significantly associated with patients' willingness to disclose important information to their doctor. There was no association between trust or ethnicity and patient disclosure of information.

"The finding suggests that physician interaction styles that are centered on patients' concerns result in more effective communication on the part of the patient, clearly reinforcing the importance of the doctor-patient dynamic," the study authors wrote.

Emphasizing these components of the patient-doctor relationship can lead to increased information sharing by patients, they concluded.

The study appears in the June issue of Arthritis Care & Research.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, May 2006
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