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Patient/Physician Communication

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Physicians tend to be more patient-centered with more positive, satisfied, and involved patients

Ideally, doctors should be informative and supportive in their communication with all patients and should strive to build partnerships with them. In reality, physicians and patients tend to feed off each others' communication style, reveals a new study by Texas A & M researchers.

Physicians were more patient-centered with patients they perceived to be better communicators, more satisfied with care, and more likely to adhere to treatment. Doctors also showed more patient-centered communication and more favorably perceived patients who expressed positive feelings, were more involved in care discussions, and were less argumentative.

Physicians were more contentious with black patients, whom they also perceived to be less effective communicators (did not actively ask questions or express concerns/opinions) and less satisfied with care. Doctors who said they were patient-centered in their care orientation tended to be patient-centered in their communication. For example, they expressed genuine concern about patients' health, encouraged patients to express concerns, made them feel at ease, thoroughly explained things, and reassured and comforted them.

Clearly, doctors' communication behaviors were linked to their perceptions of patients, and both were influenced by a variety of factors. The most powerful factors were the patient's communication style and ethnicity, and the physician's orientation to the doctor-patient relationship.

See "Physicians' communication and perceptions of patients: Is it how they look, how they talk, or is it just the doctor?" by Richard L. Street Jr., Ph.D., Howard Gordon, and Paul Haidet, M.D., M.P.H., in the August 2007 Social Science & Medicine 65, pp. 586-598.

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