Objective: Although most health care professionals im- or explicitly will assume that they tend to use patient-centered communication strategies, there are reasons to believe that this might not always be a valid assumption. In everyday practice, professionals' own value system is often the dominant steering guide. This Special Issue aims to bring together ongoing research and reflections about the quality of health care communication from the patients' own perspective. In short: what do patients want?
Methods: This introduction presents a comprehensive overview of the papers in the special issue of Patient Education and Counseling within a framework that describes the collected papers according to the six functions of medical consultations, taking account of the studies' applied methodologies: quantitative versus qualitative.
Results: Two functions of the medical consultation are strongly represented in the collected papers on the quality of communication from the patients' perspective: 'fostering the relationship' and 'information giving'. There is a remarkable difference between the qualiative and quantitative studies, showing that if patients are not limited to prestructured questionnaires but completely free to express themselves, they tend to focus on 'fostering the relationship' with an emphasis on personal attention, warmth and empathy.
Conclusions: Patients' needs and preferences for personalized and humane medical care cannot be overestimated. For the rest, patient diversity is striking, showing the limited usefulness of general communication guidelines for the other five functions of the medical consultation. Researchers should be aware that patients' views might be different dependent on the applied methodologies.
Copyright © 2013. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.