Patients' preferences and experiences in handling emotions: A study on communication sequences in primary care medical visits

  • Van Dulmen S
  • Van Den Brink-Muinen A
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The present study examined the communication sequences consisting of doctors' responses to patients' concerns in relation to the patient's empathic preference and perception and the level of anxiety provoked by the medial visit. More specifically, the following questions were addressed: (1) How many patients prefer an empathic doctor? (2) Do more anxious patients prefer a more empathic doctor? (3) Do doctors respond to patients concerns in an affective or an instrumental way? (4) Are doctors' adequate responses perceived as such by the patients resulting in lower anxiety levels? It was expected that more anxious patients prefer more empathy which, in turn, elicits more adequate doctor responses to the concerns they express during the medical visit. Similarly, patients who encounter more adequate responses to their concerns were expected to perceive more empathy which will, subsequently, result in lower levels of anxiety. This study was one of the first to examine communication sequences in relation to the visit context, i.e. patients' communication preferences and perceptions as well as their level of anxiety as reported before and after the medical visit. Contrary to expectations, the patients did not perceive their GP to be more empathic when the GP responded more adequately to their concerns. Although lower levels of anxiety were reported by patients who had perceived an empathic GP, the number of adequate responses did increase patients' anxiety after the visit. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

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  • Sandra Van Dulmen

  • Atie Van Den Brink-Muinen

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