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Open Access

The Influence of Doctor-Patient Communication on Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review


Objectives: In order to evaluate the influence of the doctor-patient relationship and communication on healthcare outcomes, further reliable results are needed.More specific results can be achieved depending on the differentiation of several domains (e.g., relationship, information gathering, or patient education).We conducted a systematic review including publications from 2000 to 2015 to gather further empirical support.

Methods: A systematic review was carried out (with information drawn mainly from Medline, Embase, Cochrane, PsychLit, and Psyndex) to identify RCTs as well as controlled and uncontrolled studies in clinical adult samples. Studies with psychiatric samples and psychologicalpsychotherapeutic interventions were excluded.

Results: A total of 17 RCTs, 17 controlled studies, and 8 qualitative studies met the inclusion criteria. The quality of the RCTs and controlled studies was satisfying. In the doctor-patient relationship (building), 60% of the studies showed a positive effect on objective health parameters. Information gathering and provision (patient education) were the most investigated domains with unequivocally positive effects. Communication (skills) showed improved results and enabled treatment-related emotions and behavior. Two studies included an economical evaluation with reduced healthcare costs.

Conclusions: A systematic review revealed different domains of the doctor-patient relationship and communication with convincing effects regarding different objective and subjective health outcomes.