What are the underlying reasons behind socioeconomic differences in doctor-patient communication in head and neck oncology review clinics?

SIMON ROGERS, Sarah Allen, Steven Brown, Rebecca Harris

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Abstract

Objective: To explore socioeconomic status (SES) differences in patterns of doctor-patient communication within head and neck cancer clinics and why such differences exist.

Methods: Thirty-six head and neck cancer review appointments with five Physicians were observed and audio-taped, along with follow-up interviews involving 32 patients. Data were analysed using Thematic Analysis, and compared by patient SES (education, occupation and Indices of Multiple Deprivation).

Results: Three main themes were identified: (a) Physicians used more humour and small talk in their consultations with high SES patients; (b) Low SES patients were more passive in their participation, engaged in less agenda setting and information seeking, and framed their clinical experience differently; (c) Low SES patients had different preferences for involvement, defining involvement differently to high SES patients and were seen to take a more stoical approach.

Conclusion: Low SES patients take a more passive role in medical consultations, engage in less relational talk and are less likely to raise concerns, but were satisfied with this. Physicians may adapt their communication behaviour in response to low SES patients’ expectations and preferences.

Practice Implications: A question prompt list may help low SES patients to raise concerns during their consultations. This may reduce inequalities in communication and health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Expectations
Early online date23 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • communication
  • doctor-patient relationship
  • socioeconomic status
  • patient participation
  • inequalities

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