Objective: To examine whether physician-patient communication in multi-bedded rooms differs from communication in single rooms during ward rounds.
Methods: Ward rounds in single-bedded patient rooms and ward rounds in four-bedded rooms were audiotaped and analyzed with an adapted version of MIARS. The researcher completed an observational checklist of each encounter. We measured: the duration of speech time, the types of verbal and nonverbal communication, the extent to which patients and physicians raise intimate subjects.
Results: Encounters during ward rounds in single rooms significantly took up more time than encounters in four-bedded rooms. The patients asked more questions and made more remarks in single rooms compared to four-bedded rooms. Empathic reactions of the physician were scored significantly more often in single rooms than in four-bedded rooms. No differences were observed concerning the extent to which intimate subjects were brought up.
Conclusion: This study is the first that investigated this subject. Findings suggest that single rooms contribute positively to physician-patient communication.
Practice implications: The research findings indicate the relevance of taking account of the context in which physician-patient communication takes place.