Doctor-patient communication and the quality of care

Soc Sci Med. 1991;32(11):1301-10. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(91)90047-g.


In this article a comparison is made between three independent sources of assessment of medical consultations. A panel of 12 experienced general practitioners rated 103 consultations with hypertensive patients on the quality of psychosocial care. There was a wide consensus between the judges, resulting in a high reliability score. Two contrasting groups were formed: consultations that were rated high and those rated low in quality of psychosocial care. A comparison was made between this general assessment of the quality of psychosocial care and a more detailed assessment of the same consultations on nine much used communication variables made by trained psychologists. Knowledge about doctor-patient communication proved to predict very well as to which quality group the consultations belonged. A very high percentage (95%) was predicted accurately, solely on the basis of these nine communication variables. Affective behaviour, and especially nonverbal affective behaviour had the strongest predictive power. In the last part of the study a third source of assessment, i.e. patients' satisfaction was compared with both other sources. Much lower relationships were found, although most were in the predicted direction. Affective behavior seems to be the most important in determining patient's satisfaction. The implications of these findings are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Reproducibility of Results