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Docs Communication Approach Affects Patient Weight Loss

A new study from Duke University reports that overweight patients respond better to the communication techniques of a gentle, Marcus Welby-like approach to weight loss rather than a talk from Dr. House.

Forty primary care physicians and 461 of their overweight or obese patient visits were audio recorded between December 2006 and June 2008. Researchers studies physician communication techniques and their patient’s interactions and responses.

There was no significant difference in weight loss among those patients who were counseled vs. those who were not.  But when researchers compared patients according to their physician’s communication approach, the encouraging docs fared much better.

Patients whose physicians used positive motivational interviewing–consistent techniques during weight-related discussions lost weight 3 months post-encounter; in fact, they lost 3.5 pounds more than those patients whose physician used non-motivational techniques gained or maintained weight.

“When it comes to behavior change, the patient is the expert, not the doctor,” researchers said. “The whole point is to help the patient solve the problem himself.” The study is published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

What are your thoughts regarding communication style with patients?  Marcus Welby or Dr. House?

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