Inaccuracies in physicians' perceptions of their patients

Med Care. 1999 Nov;37(11):1164-8. doi: 10.1097/00005650-199911000-00008.


Objective: The objective was to assess primary care physicians' awareness of their patients' rated emotions, satisfaction, and opinion of the quality of their communication.

Design: Diabetic patients (n = 261) and their primary care physicians (n = 44) each filled in a questionnaire following a routine medical visit. Patients were asked about the quality of communication with their physician, their satisfaction, and their experience of six emotions. Physicians were asked to estimate the patients' views on each of these questions. Physicians' awareness was measured by (1) correlating the physician and patient ratings, and (2) comparing mean ratings between physicians and patients.

Results: Correlations between patients' and physicians' views of patients' emotions and satisfaction were weak to moderate in magnitude; for patients' opinion of communication quality, there was no correlation. All ratings showed a substantial discrepancy between physicians and patients, such that physicians thought patients' responses were more negative than they actually were.

Conclusions: Although the causes of physicians' weak awareness of their patients' responses are not known, the results suggest that the patients' affective responses may be an especially neglected aspect of communication in the medical visit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • California
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Communication
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires