A doctor’s help is necessary to recover from many ailments. We need them to prescribe antibiotics for infections, to recommend us to specialists, and to generally guide us towards better health. Weight loss, however, is most often thought of as a solo endeavor, something our doctor suggests we do on our own. But according to a new study, a doctor's support can lead to greater weight loss.

In order to study how different aspects of a doctor-patient relationship might influence weight loss efforts, researchers from John's Hopkins Medicine reviewed information from a prior, two-year study funded by the federal government. Within this study, some obese patients worked to lose weight with the aid of health coaches during the trial, an effort that was supervised by their primary care physician. At the end of the trial, patients filled out surveys that, among other things, asked about their relationship with their primary care physician; questions included how often their providers explained things clearly, showed respect, listened carefully, and how helpful their physician’s involvement was throughout the trial.

The results showed that nearly all of the patients reported having a high-quality relationship with their physician, but that the relationship had little effect on weight loss. However, the patients who rated their physicians higher for helpfulness lost. on average, 6 pounds more than patients who rated their doctors lower.

While the overall weight loss rates were modest, those who rated their primary care physician’s support as particularly helpful lost about twice as many pounds as participants who did not. According to researchers, these findings could lead to new weight loss programs that give primary care physicians a much more central role.

Already previous research has indicated that a "quality patient-doctor relationship marked by good communication, empathy, collaboration, and trust is linked to better adherence to doctoral advice, medication schedules, and appointment keeping," Dr. Wendy L. Bennett, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a primary care physician at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, said in a press release.

In addition to new programs, Bennett added this idea could help spur new Medicare and private insurance reimbursement models that allow for physician involvement and enable more team-based care models.

"This trial supports other evidence that providers are very important in their patients' weight loss efforts," she said. "Incorporating physicians into future programs might lead patients to more successful weight loss.”

Source: Bennett W, et al. Satisfaction with primary care provider involvement is associated with greater weight loss: Results from the practice-based POWER trial. Patient Education & Counseling. 2015.