Medicine May Work Better if Your Doctor Seems to Believe It Will Work, New Study Suggests

October 28, 2019

(STAT News) – A doctor’s subtle facial cues — an encouraging smile, or perhaps a wince — can influence a patient’s own beliefs about whether a treatment will work and can even help induce a placebo effect, a new study suggests. The study, published last week in Nature Human Behaviour, suggests that patients will report that a treatment works better when their doctor’s expression conveys their belief in the treatment, even when the medicine is a placebo. It offers a new potential explanation for how patients’ pick up on placebo effects — and raises questions about the ways in which factors beyond basic biology can influence people’s health outcomes.