Objective: To identify core elements of what patients with chronic low back pain perceive as good clinical communication and interaction with a specialist ("The Good Back-Consultation").
Design: Qualitative study including observation of consultations and a subsequent patient interview. Quantitative data were also recorded.
Subjects: Thirty-five patients with chronic low back pain referred to a specialist.
Methods: Thirty-five consultations were observed with respect to history-taking, clinical examination and interaction between patient and doctor. Patients were subsequently interviewed about how they perceived the consultation. Fourteen specialists with various specialty branches and 35 patients (18 males) participated. For 3 of the specialists a positive effect (return to work) on patients with chronic low back pain had been documented in previous randomized controlled trials. Qualitative data analysis was performed using a template method.
Results: Most patients thought that the history-taking and clinical examination had been thorough and satisfactory. Patients emphasized the importance of being given an explanation during the examination of what was being done and found, of receiving understandable information on the causes of the pain, of receiving reassurance, discussing psychosocial issues and discussing what can be done. The most important characteristic of "The Good Back-Consultation" was that the specialist took the patient seriously.
Conclusion: The findings may represent an important potential for enhancing clinical communication with patients.