Patients’ perceptions of illness, it seems, matters! Not only does it matter that a patient believes they will get better with treatment (placebo effect), it matters what they believe about the specific disease or condition being treated as well as the treatment plan.
Some research even indicates that what a patient believes about their disease is more important as far as outcome than the skills of the medical professionals involved.
“…a doctor can make accurate diagnoses and have excellent treatments but if the therapy doesn’t fit with the patient’s view of their illness, they are unlikely to keep taking it.” (Petrie)
Physicians and other health care professionals will definitely improve the quality of the care they provide by taking into account the patient’s beliefs and possible misconceptions about the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of their condition.
Healthcare staff can greatly improve outcomes using simple positive attitudes about patient treatment outcomes and by pointing out the likelihood of successful outcomes (fostering placebo effect) rather than focusing on likelihood of negative outcomes (nocebo effect).
Even when the odds are against them, most people believe deep in their hearts that they alone can beat the odds – so why not surf that belief and help them do it? That’s the placebo effect – healing through belief. It’s far more powerful than many give credit.
Extensive research has shown that education is key to modifying negative illness beliefs that lead to negative outcomes. Patients who believe they have a chance at a positive outcome are far more likely to participate actively in the placebo effect WITH their healthcare providers.
- Association for Psychological Science. “Patients’ Perceptions Of Illness Make A Difference.”Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 30 Jan. 2012. Web.)
- “Mind Over Matter: Patients’ Perceptions of Illness Make a Difference” Keith J. Petrie. Current Directions in Psychological Science, February 2012