Psychiatrist: Not Well Liked? Never Mind.

To actress Sally Field, being well-liked is really, really important, as evidenced by her emotional acceptance speech for an Oscar win in 1985.

Image via Flickr user Alan Light by Creative Commons License

But if you’re a psychiatrist treating patients with bipolar disorder, your likeability quotient shouldn’t be keeping you up at night.

What really matters in your business, according to a new study from Massachusetts General Hospital, is whether your patients feel understood, respected, and listened to. If they do, they’re more likely to take the medications you prescribe, as prescribed, a key factor in stablizing patients with the disorder.

Louisa G. Sylvia, Ph.D., associate director of psychological services at the hospital’s Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, examined the relationship between medication adherence and assessments of psychiatrists by 3,640 patients enrolled in the STEP-BD trial.

When patients felt they had a good working relationship with their psychiatrists and “meaningful exchanges,” they tended to stick close to the medication plan prescribed for them.

One important element of collaboration, for example, was being told that they had the right to refuse treatment.

“I interpret that as collaboration,” said Dr. Sylvia during a scientific presentation of her results at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. When a give-and-take discussion preceded prescribing, “They were actually more attached to the treatment.”

Liking the psychiatrist “as a person” was not a key factor associated with adherence, nor was a patient’s sense that the psychiatrist had experience in helping people.

But another key to success, perhaps a simple sign of respect, was promptness, according to the study. Patients kept waiting longer than 15 minutes beyond their appointment time were more likely than others to be nonadherent to their medications, Dr. Sylvia reported.

—Betsy Bates
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Filed under IMNG, Psychiatry

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