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Empathetic Doctors Have Better Weight Loss Success

Patients visiting doctors for weight loss treatment have better success when the doctor assumes a more empathetic role, according to new research.

How was your last visit to your doctor to discuss your weight? Did the doctor make you feel like you were a cared for patient or just another slab of meat walking through the door?

The answer to that last question can actually make a very big difference to how effective that visit turns out to be.

Spending Quality Time with Your Doctor

empathetic doctorWhile doctors spend time with their patients talking about the various aspects of diets and losing weight, but little of it has much effect unless the communication style is right.

It has been found that doctors who use a more motivational and empathetic style have a much higher degree of success in getting the message across to their patients, rather than a judgmental, pedantic, or confrontational style.

Researchers studied taped conversations carried out over an 18 month period between 40 primary care physicians and a total of 461 of their patients. In 69 percent of those conversations, doctors discussed diet and loss of weight, according the researchers from the Duke University Medical Center.

While there was very little difference in the amount of body mass reduction achieved by patients who received or did not receive special counseling, researchers found that an impact was made according to the individual doctor's communication style. The researchers noted that in the three months following the final taped visit, those patients whose doctors had communicated in a motivational and empathic way had lost on average 3.8 pounds.

This was seen as a substantial achievement, especially since there is a tendency amongst most overweight or obese patients to actually gain weight over time.

It's Good to Talk

In a Duke news release, lead author Kathryn Pollak, of the Cancer Prevention Program at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, said:

"We found that on average, physicians spent about three and a half minutes talking about diet and weight loss. That may not sound like much, but it amounts to about 15 percent of the time of the average office visit, which ran about 20 minutes. So the good news is, physicians realize how important the issue is, and they are making a point to talk about it"

Pollak went on to explain:

"Patients don't like to be told what to do [although] they are generally not going to question or talk back to their doctor. But what happens when doctors used reflective statements or a more motivational or empathic approach? It changes the relationship; the patient becomes more of an equal, more of a partner in care. So, for example, instead of asking a question like 'So, you can't fit exercise into your day?' a physician might say something like 'It sounds like you're finding it hard to find time to exercise.' That kind of reflection seems to help patients open up more and give more meaningful information to doctors"

In many cases, it's not what the doctor says but the way that they sat it that can make a huge difference to how the patient reacts to it. We're only human, after all!

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine


Posted on Thu, 07 Oct 2010 in News | 1 Comments

1 thoughts on "Empathetic Doctors Have Better Weight Loss Success"

Grant says:

Many folks do not aim to achieve their weight loss ambitions, or never set their own goals to begin with. Its mainly cause they fear disappointment or rejection. Possibly they don't seriously believe that they can accomplish losing any weight. A helpful doctor who can talk with their patients the right way to get them to open up and share their fears will get much more from them and be able to motivate them to greater achievements for sure. Great post!