Interpersonal perception in the context of doctor-patient relationships: a dyadic analysis of doctor-patient communication

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Mar;70(5):763-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.10.065. Epub 2009 Dec 11.


Doctor-patient communication is an interpersonal process and essential to relationship-centered care. However, in many studies, doctors and patients are studied as if living in separate worlds. This study assessed whether: 1) doctors' perception of their communication skills is congruent with their patients' perception; and 2) patients of a specific doctor agree with each other about their doctor's communication skills. A cross-sectional study was conducted in three provinces in Canada with 91 doctors and their 1749 patients. Doctors and patients independently completed questions on the doctor's communication skills (content and process) after a consultation. Multilevel modeling provided an estimate of the patient and doctor variance components at both the dyad-level and the doctor-level. We computed correlations between patients' and doctors' perceptions at both levels to assess how congruent they were. Consensus among patients of a specific doctor was assessed using intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC). The mean score of the rating of doctor's skills according to patients was 4.58, and according to doctors was 4.37. The dyad-level variance for the patient was .38 and for the doctor was .06. The doctor-level variance for the patient ratings was .01 and for the doctor ratings, .18. The correlation between both the patients' and the doctors' skills' ratings scores at the dyad-level was weak. At the doctor-level, the correlation was not statistically significant. The ICC for patients' ratings was .03 and for the doctors' ratings .76. Overall, this study suggests that doctors and their patients have a very different perspective of the doctors' communication skills occurring during routine clinical encounters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Canada
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Communication*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Psychometrics
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires