Physicians' opening questions and patients' satisfaction

Patient Educ Couns. 2006 Mar;60(3):279-85. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2005.11.009. Epub 2006 Jan 23.


Objective: To determine the association between the format of physicians' opening questions that solicit patients' presenting concerns and patients' post-visit evaluations of (i.e., satisfaction with) the affective-relational dimension of physicians' communication.

Methods: Videotape and questionnaire data were collected from visits between 28 primary-care physicians and 142 adult patients with acute problems. Factor analysis resulted in three dependent variables derived from the 9-item Socioemotional Behavior subscale of the Medical Interview Satisfaction Scale.

Results: Question format was significantly, positively associated with patients' evaluations of physicians' listening (p=.028) and positive affective-relational communication (p=.046).

Conclusion: Patients desire opportunities to present concerns in their own time and terms regardless of how extensively they act on this opportunity.

Practice implications: Visits should be opened with general inquiries (e.g., What can I do for you today?) versus closed-ended requests for confirmation (e.g., Sore throat, huh?).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • California
  • Communication*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking / methods*
  • Negativism
  • New England
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Problem Solving
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Videotape Recording