Communication Practices of Physicians With High Patient-Satisfaction Ratings


Karen Tallman, PhD; Tom Janisse, MD; Richard M Frankel, PhD; Sue Hee Sung, MPH; Edward Krupat, PhD; John T Hsu, MD, MBA, MSCE

Winter 2007 - Volume 11 Number 1


How do primary care physicians with outstanding patient-satisfaction ratings communicate with their patients? Which specific practices distinguish them from less effective communicators on the basis of measured performance? To answer this question, we videotaped 92 adult primary care visits in Southern California and Hawaii and interviewed both physicians and patients separately. Each participating physician and patient viewed the tapes of the visit and shared their perceptions of the communication aspects of the visit. We also audiotaped these debriefing sessions. To identify successful physician communication practices, exam room visit behaviors and comments from the postvisit debriefs were coded and compared with each physician's panel-level patient satisfaction. In the final section, we describe communication strategies reported by physicians with high patient-satisfaction ratings.

The quality of physician-patient communication in primary care visits is related to patient satisfaction,1 adherence,2,3 litigation,4 quality of data collection,5 utilization patterns, and clinical outcomes.6 There is evidence that communications between physicians and patients are sometimes inadequate.7-9 In addition, disruptive communications reduce the quality of worklife for physicians. Thus, improvement in physician communication skills has great potential for both the quality of medical care and for the physician work environment.

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