Objectives: Poor children's reliance on emergency facilities is one factor implicated in the rise of morbidity attributed to asthma. Although studies have examined doctor-patient communication during routine pediatric visits, little data are available about communication during emergency care. This study sought to describe communication during emergency treatment of childhood asthma to learn if a "patient-centered" provider style was associated with increased parent satisfaction and increased parent and child participation.
Methods: This cross-sectional, observational study examined 104 children aged 4 to 9 years and their guardian(s) attending emergency departments in seven cities. Quantitative analysis of provider-family dialogue was performed. Questionnaires measured satisfaction with care, provider informativeness, and partnership.
Results: Providers' talk to children was largely supportive and directive; parents received most counseling and information. Children spoke little to providers (mean: 20 statements per visit versus 156 by parents). Providers made few statements about psychosocial aspects of asthma care (mean: three per visit). Providers' patient-centered style with parents was associated with more talk from parents and higher ratings for informativeness and partnership. Patient-centered style with children was associated with five times the amount of talk from children and with higher parent ratings for "good care," but not for informativeness or partnership.
Conclusions: Communication during emergency asthma care was overwhelmingly biomedical. Children took little part in discussions. A patient-centered style correlated with increased parent and child participation, but required directing conversation toward both parents and children.