Patients' perceptions of GP non-verbal communication: a qualitative study

Br J Gen Pract. 2010 Feb;60(571):83-7. doi: 10.3399/bjgp10X483111.


Background: During doctor-patient interactions, many messages are transmitted without words, through non-verbal communication.

Aim: To elucidate the types of non-verbal behaviours perceived by patients interacting with family GPs and to determine which cues are perceived most frequently.

Design of study: In-depth interviews with patients of family GPs.

Setting: Nine family practices in different regions of Poland.

Method: At each practice site, interviews were performed with four patients who were scheduled consecutively to see their family doctor.

Results: Twenty-four of 36 studied patients spontaneously perceived non-verbal behaviours of the family GP during patient-doctor encounters. They reported a total of 48 non-verbal cues. The most frequent features were tone of voice, eye contact, and facial expressions. Less frequent were examination room characteristics, touch, interpersonal distance, GP clothing, gestures, and posture.

Conclusion: Non-verbal communication is an important factor by which patients spontaneously describe and evaluate their interactions with a GP. Family GPs should be trained to better understand and monitor their own non-verbal behaviours towards patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Poland
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult