Relationship of physicians' nonverbal communication skill to patient satisfaction, appointment noncompliance, and physician workload

Health Psychol. 1986;5(6):581-94. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.5.6.581.


A field study of 28 residents in family practice was conducted. Physicians' self-reports of empathy, self-monitoring ability, and affective communication skill as well as their objectively measured nonverbal communication skills were examined as predictors of patient satisfaction, appointment noncompliance, and physician workload (schedule density). Physicians completed the Hogan Empathy Scale, Snyder Self-Monitoring Scale, Affective Communication Test, short form of the Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity, and a nonverbal encoding task. Patient satisfaction with communication, affective care, and technical care was assessed using a 25-item, visit-specific satisfaction scale. Appointment records were used to determine the number of patients seen by each physician and the compliance of patients with scheduled appointments. Results indicated that the three self-report measures were unrelated to the measures of patient noncompliance and patient satisfaction, but self-reported affective communication ability was significantly correlated with physician workload. Objectively measured physician sensitivity to audio communication predicted patient compliance: More sensitive physicians experienced fewer unrescheduled appointment cancellations. Nonverbal encoding skill was significantly related to patient satisfaction with affective care and to physician workload.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Empathy
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*