The impact of matching the patient's vocabulary: a randomized control trial

Fam Pract. 2004 Dec;21(6):630-5. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmh610. Epub 2004 Nov 1.


Background: Research in general practice emphasizes the importance of matched models, beliefs and vocabulary in the consultation.

Objective: The present study aimed to explore the impact of matched and unmatched vocabulary on patient satisfaction with consultations.

Methods: The study took place in one inner city general practice. Patients (n=62) were randomized to either matched or unmatched vocabulary consultations when consulting for problems relating to sexual or bodily function or anatomy. Matched consultations required the doctor to use the same vocabulary as the patient. Unmatched consultations required the doctor to use medical vocabulary. Completed questionnaires were received from 60 patients. The main outcome measure was patient satisfaction (using the Medical Interview Satisfaction Scale). This assesses total satisfaction and has four subscales: distress relief; communication comfort; rapport; and compliance intent. Doctor satisfaction with the consultation was also assessed.

Results: The results showed that the two groups were comparable for demographic variables and doctor satisfaction. However, patients in the matched consultation group had significantly higher total satisfaction scores and higher ratings of rapport, communication comfort, distress relief and compliance intent than those in the unmatched group.

Conclusion: The results indicate that a doctor's choice of vocabulary affects patient satisfaction immediately after a general practice consultation and that using the same vocabulary as the patient can improve patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication*
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Female
  • Genital Diseases, Female / psychology*
  • Genital Diseases, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction* / ethnology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Urban Health Services / standards
  • Vocabulary*