The impact of clinicians' personality and their interpersonal behaviors on the quality of patient care: a systematic review

Int J Qual Health Care. 2014 Aug;26(4):426-81. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzu055. Epub 2014 May 20.


Purpose: To review systematically the impact of clinicians' personality and observed interpersonal behaviors on the quality of their patient care.

Data sources: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO from inception through January 2014, using both free text words and subject headings, without language restriction. Additional hand-searching was performed.

Study selection: The PRISMA framework guided (the reporting of) study selection and data extraction. Eligible articles were selected by title, abstract and full text review subsequently.

Data extraction: Data on study setting, participants, personality traits or interpersonal behaviors, outcome measures and limitations were extracted in a systematic way.

Results of data synthesis: Our systematic search yielded 10 476 unique hits. Ultimately, 85 studies met all inclusion criteria, 4 on clinicians' personality and 81 on their interpersonal behaviors. The studies on interpersonal behaviors reported instrumental (n = 45) and affective (n = 59) verbal behaviors or nonverbal behaviors (n = 20). Outcome measures in the studies were quality of processes of care (n = 68) and patient health outcomes (n = 35). The above categories were non-exclusive. The majority of the studies found little or no effect of clinicians' personality traits and their interpersonal behaviors on the quality of patient care. The few studies that found an effect were mostly observational studies that did not address possible uncontrolled confounding.

Conclusions: There is no strong empirical evidence that specific interpersonal behaviors will lead to enhanced quality of care. These findings could imply that clinicians can adapt their interactions toward patients' needs and preferences instead of displaying certain specific behaviors per se.

Keywords: measurement of quality, patient provider communication/information; patient-centered care, patient satisfaction; quality management, patient outcomes (health status, quality of life, mortality).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Behavior*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Personality*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*