February 26, 2013
Dr. Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard, who has his doctorate in Chinese medicine, is at the forefront of studying the placebo effect and its place in medicine. For many folks, the term "placebo effect" has a negative connotation, used to describe why many people get better with treatment, in the absence of any measurable therapeutic chemical interaction (as in homeopathy or in drug studies where the control group is given sugar pills). However, an article released in the latest Harvard Magazine discusses how doctors can use the placebo effect to positively affect patient outcomes. Whether it's a sugar pill or sham acupuncture (as in this study), who wouldn't feel some symptomatic improvement just from feeling respected and listened to by their practitioner, rather than dealing with a curt professional who dismisses your concerns abruptly or who doesn't seem to have enough time for you? There is a very interesting and, to me, exciting field of research surrounding patient-doctor interactions and the effects that they have on care outcomes and I look forward to reading more about how I can improve my patients' health by taking the time to listen and care for them. It also inspires me to ask the following questions (please post your responses below): what makes a doctor effective? Why do you return or choose another doctor?