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The effect of patient-provider communication on pain: a systematic review.

Mistiaen, P., Osch, M. van, Vliet, L. van, Howick, J., Bishop, F.L., Blasi, Z. di, Bensing, J., Dulmen, S. van. The effect of patient-provider communication on pain: a systematic review. European Journal of Pain: 2016, 20(5), p. 675-688.
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Background and objective
Communication between patients and health care practitioners is expected to benefit health outcomes. The objective of this review was to assess the effects of experimentally varied communication on clinical patients’ pain.

Databases and data treatment
We searched in July 2012, 11 databases supplemented with forward and backward searches for (quasi-) randomized controlled trials in which face-to-face communication was manipulated. We updated in June 2015 using the four most relevant databases (CINAHL, Cochrane Central, Psychinfo, PubMed).

Fifty-one studies covering 5079 patients were included. The interventions were separated into three categories: cognitive care, emotional care, procedural preparation. In all but five studies the outcome concerned acute pain. We found that, in general, communication has a small effect on (acute) pain. The 19 cognitive care studies showed that a positive suggestion may reduce pain, whereas a negative suggestion may increase pain, but effects are small. The 14 emotional care studies showed no evidence of a direct effect on pain, although four studies showed a tendency for emotional care lowering patients’ pain. Some of the 23 procedural preparation interventions showed a weak to moderate effect on lowering pain.

Different types of communication have a significant but small effect on (acute) pain. Positive suggestions and informational preparation seem to lower patients’ pain. Communication interventions show a large variety in quality, complexity and methodological rigour; they often used multiple components and it remains unclear what the effective elements of communication are. Future research is warranted to identify the effective components. (aut. ref.)