Objective: To assess the relationship between observable patient and doctor verbal and non-verbal behaviors and the degree of enablement in consultations according to the Patient Enablement Instrument (PEI) (a patient-reported consultation outcome measure).
Methods: We analyzed 88 recorded routine primary care consultations. Verbal and non-verbal communications were analyzed using the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS) and the Medical Interaction Process System, respectively. Consultations were categorized as patient- or doctor-centered and by whether the patient or doctor was verbally dominant using the RIAS categorizations.
Results: Consultations that were regarded as patient-centered or verbally dominated by the patient on RIAS coding were considered enabling. Socio-emotional interchange (agreements, approvals, laughter, legitimization) was associated with enablement. These features, together with task-related behavior explain up to 33% of the variance of enablement, leaving 67% unexplained. Thus, enablement appears to include aspects beyond those expressed as observable behavior.
Conclusion: For enablement consultations should be patient-centered and doctors should facilitate socio-emotional interchange. Observable behavior included in communication skills training probably contributes to only about a third of the factors that engender enablement in consultations.
Practice implications: To support patient enablement in consultations, clinicians should focus on agreements, approvals and legitimization whilst attending to patient agendas.
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