Patient Likability Affects Care For Pain


SAUSALITO, CA (NCP-ASSN.ORG)-- Patients who are perceived as likable by physicians are also more likely to get a more sympathetic response to their pain, according to a new study.

For the study, Liesbet Goubert from Ghent University, Belgium, and team members preconditioned 40 study participants by asking them to look at photographs of six different patients.

Each patient was tagged with simple descriptions that ranged from negative (egoistic, hypocritical, or arrogant) to neutral (true to tradition, reserved, or conventional) to positive (faithful, honest, or friendly).

After watching videos of the patients undergoing a standardized physiotherapy assessment for shoulder pain, the participants rated the patients' severity of pain and judged the patients to be negative or positive, disagreeable or agreeable, and unsympathetic or sympathetic.

Investigators found that even though all of the patients' actual pain was similar, observers who disliked patients estimated their pain as less intense and were also more sensitive toward the pain of people they liked.

"Our results suggest that pain of disliked patients who express high pain is taken less seriously by others," said Goubert and co-investigator Geert Crombez head of the Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology at Ghent University. "This could imply less helping behavior by others as well as poorer health outcomes."

Physicians who have misgivings about prescribing potentially addictive pain medications might want to be mindful that the reverse phenomenon may also play a role: That more likeable patients might have better success garnering sympathy for lower levels of pain.


Copyright 2011- National College of Physicians (NCP-ASSN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


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