(HealthDay News) — The patient-clinician relationship has a small but significant effect on health care outcomes, according to a study published online April 9 in PLOS ONE.

John M. Kelley, Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine whether the patient-clinician relationship affects health care outcomes. Thirteen randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in adult patients were included in the analyses. Included studies involved a patient-clinician relationship that was systematically manipulated, and health care outcomes were either objective, such as blood pressure, or validated subjective measures, including pain scores.

The researchers found that there was variation in the effect sizes of the individual studies, from d = −0.23 to 0.66. Although the estimated overall effect size based on a random-effects model was small (d = 0.11), it did reach statistical significance (P = 0.02).

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“This systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs suggests that the patient-clinician relationship has a small, but statistically significant, effect on health care outcomes,” the authors write. “Given that relatively few RCTs met our eligibility criteria, and that the majority of these trials were not specifically designed to test the effect of the patient-clinician relationship on health care outcomes, we conclude with a call for more research on this important topic.”

One author disclosed financial ties to Empathetics.

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