Growing interest in the doctor-patient relationship focuses attention on the specific elements of that relationship that affect patients' health outcomes. Data are presented for four clinical trials conducted in varied practice settings among chronically ill patients differing markedly in sociodemographic characteristics. These trials demonstrated that "better health" measured physiologically (blood pressure or blood sugar), behaviorally (functional status), or more subjectively (evaluations of overall health status) was consistently related to specific aspects of physician-patient communication. We conclude that the physician-patient relationship may be an important influence on patients' health outcomes and must be taken into account in light of current changes in the health care delivery system that may place this relationship at risk.
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