Patients Want Doctors to Discuss More Than Physical Health

Results of a recent survey of 2,027 U.S. adults revealed a disconnect between how doctors and patients define health, with patients wanting more discussion about behavioral and mental health.

The poll, conducted by the Harris Insights & Analytics on behalf of Samueli Integrative Health Programs, asked adults about interactions with their primary-care providers. Fifty-two percent of patients indicated that they have not had discussions beyond medical needs with their doctor, and 45 percent wished to speak with their doctor more about why they want to be healthy. The results are derived from interactions with primary care providers and it is unclear whether patients have similar expectations of specialists.

While patients reported that doctors often discussed physical health, they noted that providers were much less willing to talk about behavioral factors that influence health, including exercise (51%), diet (44%), and sleep (40%). Many survey respondents reported having mental health issues, including depression (19%) and anxiety (18%), but only 36 percent of respondents indicated that they had had a mental health discussion with their doctor.

Younger patients, in particular, reported dissatisfaction with physicians’ emphasis on physical health and approach to treatment. Most respondents between ages 18 and 44 indicated a desire to discuss why they want to be healthy (55%) and treatments that did not require medication (63%).

“Patients see their health as more than their physical symptoms, yet doctors aren’t talking to them about important factors that influence their health,” said Wayne Jonas, MD, executive director of Samueli Integrative Health Programs, in a press release. “A whole-person, integrative approach to health and well-being allows patients to get to the root of their health conditions.”

Sources: Samueli Integrative Health Programs press release, October 11, 2018; FierceHealthcare, October 11, 2018.