Interactions between patients and clinicians involving information, identification of providers who fit patients’ needs, and the realization of shared responsibilities may contribute to the development of effective relationships between patients with fibromyalgia and health care providers, according to a study published in Pain Medicine.

In the study, researchers interviewed 23 patients (age 21 to 79 years) with fibromyalgia (illness duration, 1 to 58 years) regarding their treatment experiences with various healthcare providers, including general practitioners, rheumatologists, neurologists, and chiropractors.

Of the themes discussed, the majority of the patients believed closing information gaps to be one of the most important factors in building an effective relationship with providers. They cited lack of respect from providers, lack of clear answers, and lack of treatment progress as aspects that create information gaps.

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Patients also reported feeling more confident about their treatment plan when providers acted as facilitators and educators. They liked to be given new information on fibromyalgia via secondary sources (ie, research articles, books, television), and were often pleased when introduced to alternative treatment methods (eg, hypnotherapy). They also appreciated being referred to providers who better met their preferences, in particular, providers who listen more intently and are not “pushy.”

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Numerous patients reported considering their interactions with a provider as a collaborative partnership. They tended to prefer physicians who talked through the issue instead of developing a rigid treatment plan based on initial assumptions. Patients felt better about their relationship if they had more comfortable consultations during which the physician was open-minded and there was mutual respect for each other’s knowledge.

Study limitations include a small and heterogeneous population.

“Patients and providers both need to contribute in order for clinical relationships to be successful. Training and education can be helpful. For patients, providing information about selecting and working with providers and how to make the most of clinical consultations can improve productivity. For providers, learning more about patients’ expectations can help them to provide better care,” noted the study authors.

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Chen AT, Swaminathan A. Factors in the building of effective patient–provider relationships in the context of fibromyalgia [published online April 13, 2019]. Pain Med. doi:10.1093/pm/pnz054