Objective: The aim of this study is to generate empirically based 'tips' from lay people on how medical consultations could become more successful from a patient perspective.
Methods: 258 Lay people in the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, distributed over 32 focus groups, were invited to formulate 'tips' for doctors as well as patients after rating the quality of communication from videotaped consultations and discussing their arguments in focus groups.
Results: Tips were remarkably similar across the four countries. Most tips reflect the professional literature, such as the importance of nonverbal communication, personal attention and empathy, but also addressed issues as how to deal with new technologies and new accessibility arrangements (triage). The tips were targeted to the consultation itself, its preparation and the aftercare. Tips for doctors were mirrored in tips for patients.
Conclusion: Lay people seem to be competent in participating in quality-of-care debates. They are well aware of patients' own responsibilities. Besides, they have clear opinions about novel technology and healthcare arrangements (triage).
Practice implications: Listening to patients, showing empathy and personal attention seem to have a universal value. Doctors should be trained to practice these behaviors, healthcare managers in involving patients in practice reorganisations.
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