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The Role of Patient-Provider Communication in Pain Modulation: Improving Treatment Outcomes by Harnessing the Placebo Effect

Patient-provider communication plays a critical role in pain management, influencing patients’ experience of pain and distress, post-operative pain, treatment adherence, therapeutic effectiveness, and the incidence of complications and adverse treatment effects. Placebo researchers have played an important role in the development of our understanding of how patient-provider communication influences pain and treatment outcomes, providing systematic evidence for the specific characteristics of patient-provider communication. This workshop will showcase the most recent advances in this area, highlighting specific communication strategies that have been empirically demonstrated to enhance treatment effects. First, John Kelley will focus on the use of open-label placebo and authorized concealment as promising strategies to decrease the chances of opioid addiction while maintaining analgesic efficacy, and highlight the critical importance of patient-provider communication in these strategies. Next, Dr. Claire Ashton James will present research into the contribution of clinicians’ (primarily non-verbal) communication to their perceived trustworthiness, and the relationship between perceptions of surgeon trustworthiness and patients’ experience of procedural pain. Finally, Andrea Evers will present recent guidelines about the optimal use of placebo and nocebo effects in the area of healthcare, with a specific focus on how doctors can be trained in the communication to maximize treatment effects.

Learning Objectives:

  • Upon completion of this session, attendees will have learned about the significant effects of patient-provider communication on pain and other health outcomes, such as patient satisfaction and side effects.
  • Upon completion of this session, attendees will have insight into the central mechanisms by which patient-provider communication enhances treatment effects.
  • Upon completion of this session, attendees will have tools to optimize their own patient-provider communication in clinical practice, for example, how to decrease pain by managing their perceived trustworthiness.
Credit: This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower and the International Association for the Study of Pain. The Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower designates this enduring activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

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