Patient-Centeredness as Physician Behavioral Adaptability to Patient Preferences

Health Commun. 2018 May;33(5):593-600. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1286282. Epub 2017 Mar 3.

Abstract

A physician who communicates in a patient-centered way is a physician who adapts his or her communication style to what each patient needs. In order to do so, the physician has to (1) accurately assess each patient's states and traits (interpersonal accuracy) and (2) possess a behavioral repertoire to choose from in order to actually adapt his or her behavior to different patients (behavioral adaptability). Physician behavioral adaptability describes the change in verbal or nonverbal behavior a physician shows when interacting with patients who have different preferences in terms of how the physician should interact with them. We hypothesized that physician behavioral adaptability to their patients' preferences would lead to better patient outcomes and that physician interpersonal accuracy was positively related to behavioral adaptability. To test these hypotheses, we recruited 61 physicians who completed an interpersonal accuracy test before being videotaped during four consultations with different patients. The 244 participating patients indicated their preferences for their physician's interaction style prior to the consultation and filled in a consultation outcomes questionnaire directly after the consultation. We coded the physician's verbal and nonverbal behavior for each of the consultations and compared it to the patients' preferences to obtain a measure of physician behavioral adaptability. Results partially confirmed our hypotheses in that female physicians who adapted their nonverbal (but not their verbal) behavior had patients who reported more positive consultation outcomes. Moreover, the more female physicians were accurate interpersonally, the more they showed verbal and nonverbal behavioral adaptability. For male physicians, more interpersonal accuracy was linked to less nonverbal adaptability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonverbal Communication / psychology
  • Patient Preference*
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Videotape Recording