It’s all about trust and the truth when building physician-patient relationships.

One method Marathon Health clinicians use is motivational interviewing, in which providers use body language and refined vocal habits to build trust with patients.

Why are Physician-Patient Relationships Important?

A recent study by EMR evaluation site Software Advice reveals that half of patients have knowingly deceived a doctor.

Misdiagnoses and other significant repercussions can occur when patients aren’t honest with their health providers.

The Software Advice survey of 3,075 American patients found:

  • Half of respondents admit to deceiving a doctor or other health care professional.
  • Most patients give misleading information about their drug, alcohol, or tobacco use.
  • Dishonest patients typically hide the truth in order to prevent being judged or lectured.

It’s this last point that is most troubling.

Clinicians say patients who feel judged are unable to make progress to improve their health. That’s where motivational interviewing comes in.

It focuses on body language rather than words, which helps patients to open up about lifestyle issues that can affect their care.

“We draw out our patients’ own motivation for making healthy changes, rather than trying to ‘fix’ them,” says health coach Tamara Golden. “We understand that people already have within them much of what is needed. Our task is to call it forth.”

Here is One Example of How to Use Motivational Interviewing:

National Director of Health Coaching Mary Meyer says she is straightforward, telling patients that they are in a safe place to be vulnerable and share their struggles.

Meyer punctuates her vocalization with congruent body language that conveys compassion and attentiveness. She leans forward with her head tilted, and is fully present and listening intently.

Meyer also acknowledges that everyone struggles to change some kind of behavior. This tactic normalizes the quest for change but can also provide hope when success stories are discussed.

National Director of Clinical Quality Colleen Schaeffel says she helps patients understand that she cares about them and wants to help them make healthy changes.

“Once they feel that the coach cares but is also an understanding and compassionate partner in their plan, they tend to open up rather than withhold vital information,” she says.

Motivational interviewing works. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that use of motivational interviewing techniques during weight-loss discussions predicted patients’ success in trimming down.

If patients have a hard time being honest, it’s best to focus on trust and collaboration. This approach helps break down barriers and helps people lead healthier lives.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay on the cutting edge of worksite healthcare.