The relationship of physician medical interview style to patient satisfaction

J Fam Pract. 1991 Feb;32(2):175-81.


The results of previous studies on the relationship between patient satisfaction and specific interviewing behaviors have been difficult to generalize because most studies have examined small samples of patients at one clinical location, and have used initial or acute care visits where the patient and physician did not have an established relationship. The present collaborative study of medical interviewing provided an opportunity to collect interviews from 550 return visits to 127 different physicians at 11 sites across the country. Tape recordings were analyzed using the Roter Interaction Analysis System, and postvisit satisfaction questionnaires were administered to patients. A number of significant relationships were found between communication during the visit and the various dimensions of patient satisfaction. Physician question asking about biomedical topics (both open- and closed-ended questions) was negatively related to patient satisfaction; however, physician question asking about psychosocial topics was positively related. Physician counseling for psychosocial issues was also positively related to patient satisfaction. Similarly, patient talk about biomedical topics was negatively related to satisfaction, while patient talk regarding psychosocial topics was positively related. Furthermore, patients were less satisfied when physicians dominated the interview by talking more or when the emotional tone was characterized by physician dominance. The findings suggest that patients are most satisfied by interviews that encourage them to talk about psychosocial issues in an atmosphere that is characterized by the absence of physician domination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada
  • Communication
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • United States