Objective: To examine associations between active patient-physician communication and measures of morbidity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: Audiotapes of routine visits between 79 women with SLE and their rheumatologists were coded for active patient participation and the degree of patient-centered communication of the physician, using a validated coding scheme. Measures of SLE activity, functional disability, and permanent organ damage were recorded at the same visit. Permanent organ damage was reassessed in 68 patients after a median of 4.7 years.
Results: Patients who participated more actively in their visits had less permanent organ damage, as measured by the Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology Damage Index, and tended to accrue less organ damage over time. There were no associations between either active patient participation or physicians' patient-centered communication scores and measures of SLE activity or functional disability.
Conclusions: Patients with SLE who participated more actively in their visits had less permanent organ damage, suggesting that involving patients more in their care may decrease morbidity.