Objective: This study tested whether the impact of the physician's communication style on patient satisfaction differs depending on patients' attitudes toward caring and sharing. We predicted that the impact of physician caring on patient satisfaction depends on patient attitudes toward caring, and that the impact of physician sharing on patient satisfaction depends on patient attitudes toward sharing.
Methods: Participants (N=167) were asked to imagine that they were consulting for recurrent headaches. They interacted on a computer with a virtual physician that communicated either in a low or high caring way and either in a low or high sharing way (2 × 2 design). Then, participants answered questions about their attitudes toward caring and sharing and about their satisfaction with the physician.
Results: Hypotheses were confirmed. Furthermore, a high caring physician communication style led to higher satisfaction than a low caring one, regardless of participants' attitudes toward caring, while satisfaction with physicians' level of sharing was dependent on the participants' attitude toward sharing.
Conclusion and practice implications: Physicians may adopt a high caring style with confidence that all patients will benefit. Adoption of a sharing style should be more carefully adjusted to patient attitudes.
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