Objective: to establish which kind of physician communicative responses to patient cues and concerns are appreciated by lay people.
Methods: A balanced sample (259 people) was recruited in public places to participate in a full day observation of four videotaped standardized medical consultations. In a two-step procedure participants gave their individual quality ratings of the whole consultations and then of a set of four fragments from each consultation. They contained a patient negative emotional expression and the subsequent physician response, according to the VR-CoDES.
Results: Higher quality ratings were given to physician responses which provided space to the patient to talk and to the explicit expressions of empathy. The explicit responses were favored above non-explicit responses. Participants' global evaluation of the whole consultation affected their quality assessments of the fragments (halo-effect). In a multivariate model, lay people's background characteristics appeared to be relevant: to be female, of lower educational level and living in Belgium or Italy predicted higher ratings.
Conclusions: Providing space to patients is appreciated by all participants, combined with the need for tailor made communication.
Practice implications: To teach physicians listening skills and how to show empathy with distressed patients should be a core element in medical education.
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