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Nurturing relationships with friends and family helps patients

Harold Mandel's picture

Researchers say it may be more effective for the health of patients to nurture relationships with friends and family than to spend more time on relating to physicians or other clinicians.


Patients often feel the health care system is dehumanizing and undermines there capacity to achieve wellness. Researchers have recently said that nurturing personal relationships with friends and family may in fact be a more potent way to improve the health of patients than more interactions with doctors and other clinicians.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reports that one of the most potent ways in which to improve health is ignored by most doctors. This comment is in reference to the value of social engagement for the promotion of the health of patients.

The inherent value of free social interactions is not well tapped

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Co-author of the study David Asch, MD, MBA, who is a professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, says even though people are more heavily influenced by those who are around them daily than they are by doctors and nurses they deal with only ocassionally, the inherent value of these free social interactions is not well tapped when giving consideration to social incentives for health. This is seen as being an opportunity that is missed by Dr. Asch.

Dr. Asch suggests that it is a good idea to engineer social engagements in dealing with the social support which patients have already. After all it costs an awful lot of money for doctors and nurses to spend a lot of time with patients. Although privacy is an important factor with many patients, they neverheless often would like to have family and friends help them manage their illnesses. Dr. Asch has noted that there is no reason health care can't be social even though it is a serious business.

It is important to nurture positive social engagements

This study has been published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Social relationships which already exist have the advantage of being very influential for patients. It is important to nurture positive social engagements which serve to promote health.

There are generally opportunities all around patients to improve health by taking advantage of social forces which occur naturally. Social engagement can be prescribed by doctors and hospitals in order to benefit their health. This is a potentially very beneficial side of health care management which deserves careful consideration