The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1165: Can Your Doctor’s Positive Attitude Improve Your Health?

Research suggests that a doctor's positive attitude can speed symptom relief and encourage doctor-patient collaboration for healing.
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Can Your Doctor’s Positive Attitude Improve Your Health?

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We all prefer to interact with people who are friendly, supportive and helpful. But when it comes to health care providers, does “bedside manner” really make a difference? Or is a doctor’s positive attitude irrelevant to the medical outcome?

Does Your Doctor’s Positive Attitude Affect Your Health?

We talk with a scientist who has looked into this question and concluded that “having a doctor who is warm and reassuring actually improves your health.” Doctoral candidate Kari Leibowitz will explain her research and how she reached that conclusion. She also suggests how this effects of a doctor’s positive attitude may be working.

How Does Your Doctor React to Dr. Google?

Many people have told us that if they take the results of an internet search to their doctor visit, the reception can be frosty. Dr. Mike Stang welcomes his patients bringing him their ideas and the information they have found. Does treating patients like partners make a difference in their care? Tell us about your experiences, especially when a doctor’s positive attitude made a difference: 888-472-3366 between 7 and 8 am EDT on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Or send us email:

This Week’s Guests:

Kari Leibowitz is a Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow and doctoral candidate in psychology at Stanford University. Kari works in the Stanford Mind & Body Lab and her research involves leveraging mindsets to improve healthcare experiences and outcomes. Her research was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in December 2018 and written up in The New York Times. The photo is of Ms. Leibowitz.

Michael T. Stang, MD, is the Chief Quality Officer for Duke Raleigh Hospital in the Duke Medical Center. He is an Associate Professor of Surgery, an endocrine surgeon, and a surgical oncologist.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Leibowitz K et al, "Physician assurance reduces patient symptoms in US adults: An experimental study." Journal of General Internal Medicine, Dec. 2018. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-018-4627-z
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PLEASE….Can you tell us how many nuts 1/4 oz. of pecans daily translates into? Most people don’t have a scale that they could measure that small of an amount.

I saw three doctors before I let the third one perform surgery on me this year. The third one had a fine reputation but, he also had a very wonderful bedside manner. He actually touched me instead of just touching the computer. He listened to my concerns and reassured me that certain things would or would not happen in the OR. He reassured me that he would be the one performing the surgery and would not let a student take a stab at it. I have to have a doctor who is skilled and compassionate. I won’t settle for less unless I have no choice. Advocate for yourself! If you can’t, get an advocate involved.

According to Beers I should not be taking this med. Took the information to my Dr. He would not change it. His attitude was ‘It is what it is’. Took it to another Dr. and she looked it up and changed the med in 10 minutes. Been going to this Dr. for 10 years and I now think he is trying to get rid of me because of my age,78.

I strongly believe that for most people, a caring compassionate doctor makes a difference in our health and healing. For example, I had back surgery, by a doctor whom I was warned by another doctor, was a superb surgeon but was not a nice person. I agreed about his bedside manner when I met him, but tried to ignore it. After the surgery the doctor came to the hospital. He kept asking me how I felt. I felt no difference and stated so but he kept asking me, like a robot. Doctors can be intimidating and I couldn’t figure out how to answer him and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I saw him several times the following year and his manner was rude and impatient. Due to his manner and the failed surgery, I lost my appetite and lost 20 pounds over a year. I’ve had several procedures in the past but never had such a bad experience as with this doctor.

Read the book by Dr. Joe Dispenza, M.D., YOU ARE THE PLACEBO in which he describes and cites numerous examples that a physician’s words to patents are powerful and can
directly effect a patient’s healing and attitudes about the prospects of heaving.
So it much more than having a warm, fuzzy conversation, but rather a powerful effect that can enable healing or disable it.
No longer is it acceptable for physicians to communicate on the basis of “just giving the
patient the truth” when a discouraging “truth” may actually help bring about negative results.

Challenge me.I am a believer.

The Doctor /medical care giver role is complex and touches all aspects of interpersonal interaction. First there has to be a level of respect by both Doctor and patient or the care and treatment is in danger of being everyone’s waste of time. Second there is a dance between both parties that helps with smooth interaction . The Doctor listens to the patient both physically with exams and tests but just as important is what the patient offers of concerns and complaints. Third important consideration is on the Doctor’s bed side manner. This involves projecting empathy which can be most difficult area since not everyone is keyed into this talented form of communication. It adds a warmth to a clinical atmosphere .Fourth is maintaining the balance of the three previous mentioned interactions.which generates the feeling of friendliness yet just enough distance to stay appropriate . A big challenge lay in keeping the communication always on a professional level . The medications and suggested treatments benefit from the other aspects of the interaction between doctor and patient. The doctor also has chance to improve the people skills . Each side should benefit from the interaction.

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