Doctor-patient communications in the Aboriginal community: towards the development of educational programs

Patient Educ Couns. 2006 Sep;62(3):340-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2006.06.006. Epub 2006 Jul 24.


Objective: Aboriginal people in Canada have poorer health than the rest of the population. Reasons for health disparities are many and include problems in communication between doctor and patient. The objective of this study was to understand doctor-patient communication in Aboriginal communities in order to design educational interventions for medical students based on the needs and experiences of patients.

Methods: Experiences of good and poor communication were studied by semi-structured interviews or focus groups with 22 Aboriginal community members, 2 community health representatives and 2 Aboriginal trainee physicians. Transcribed data were coded and subjected to thematic analysis.

Results: Positive and negative experiences of communicating with physicians fell into three broad and interrelated themes: their histories as First Nations citizens; the extent to which the physician was trusted; time in the medical interview.

Conclusion: Aboriginal peoples' history affects their communication with physicians; barriers may be overcome when patients feel they have a voice and the time for it to be heard.

Practice implications: Physicians can improve communication with Aboriginal patients by learning about their history, building trust and giving time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • British Columbia
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Communication*
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Empathy
  • Fear / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American* / education
  • Indians, North American* / ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Education as Topic / organization & administration*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Program Development
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Perception
  • Trust / psychology