Analyzing Communication in Medical Consultations
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When analyzing relationships between physician-patient communication and medical outcomes, researchers typically rely on quantitative measures of behavior (e.g., frequencies or ratios) derived from observer-coding of transcripts, audiotapes, or videotapes. Interestingly, rarely have researchers assessed whether quantitative measures of communication (e.g., the physician's information giving) correspond to patients' perceptions of physicians' communication (e.g., informative). This investigation of 115 pediatric consultations examined this issue and yielded several notable findings. First, less satisfied parents received more directives and proportionally less patient-centered utterances from physicians than did more satisfied parents. Second, findings were mixed regarding the degree to which behavioral measures related to analogue measures of parents' perceptions. For example, the doctors' use of patient-centered statements was predictive of parents' perceptions of physicians' interpersonal sensitivity and partnership building, but the amount of information physicians provided parents was unrelated to judgments of the doctors' informativeness. Third, with some important exceptions, relationships between behavioral measures and parents' evaluations did not vary for parents differing in education and anxiety about the child's health. Finally, behavioral measures in the form of frequencies tended to be better predictors of parents' perceptions than were measures in the form of proportions. Implications are discussed.
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