Encounters between medical specialists and patients with medically unexplained physical symptoms; influences of communication on patient outcomes and use of health care: a literature overview
SourcePerspectives on Medical Education, 1, 4, (2012), pp. 192-206
Article / Letter to editor
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Primary and Community Care
Perspectives on Medical Education
SubjectNCEBP 7: Effective primary care and public health
Medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS) burden patients and health services due to large quantities of consultations and medical interventions. The aim of this study is to determine which elements of communication in non-psychiatric specialist MUPS care influence health outcomes. Systematic search in PubMed, PsycINFO and Embase. Data extraction comprising study design, patient characteristics, number of patients, communication strategies, outcome measures and results. Elements of doctor-patient communication were framed according to symptoms, health anxiety, satisfaction, daily functioning and use of health care. Eight included studies. Two studies described the effect of communication on patient outcome in physical symptoms, three studies on health anxiety and patient satisfaction and one study on daily functioning. Two studies contained research on use of health care. Qualitative synthesis of findings was conducted. Communication matters in non-psychiatric MUPS specialist care. Perceiving patients' expectations correctly enables specialists to influence patients' cognitions, to reduce patients' anxiety and improve patients' satisfaction. Patients report less symptoms and health anxiety when symptoms are properly explained. Positive interaction and feedback reduces use of health care and improves coping. Development of communication skills focused on MUPS patients should be part of postgraduate education for medical specialists.
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