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7 - Interacting with health professionals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Antonia C. Lyons
Massey University, Auckland
Kerry Chamberlain
Massey University, Auckland
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There is ample evidence that communication should be considered as a powerful tool in medicine, not only in establishing a workable relationship with the patient, but also in both the diagnosis and therapeutic process.

(Bensing et al., 2003, p. 27)

Effective delivery of health care depends to a great extent on the quality of the interaction between health care providers (doctors, nurses, allied health care professionals, informal caregivers) and consumers of health care (those seeking care and their loved ones).

(Kreps et al., 2003, p. 3)

Learning objectives

The aim of this chapter is to review research on what influences people to seek health care, and what factors influence the quality of the interaction they have with health professionals. By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • identify factors that influence when and why people seek health care;

  • discuss some of the functions of patient–health professional interaction;

  • describe influences on the quality of patient–health professional interactions, including those at the individual, social and cultural level;

  • offer an analysis of the ways in which power operates within interactions with health professionals;

  • critique the current state of research into patient–health professional interaction;

  • outline some of the implications of traditional patient–health professional interaction research;

  • offer suggestions for future research in this area.

Health Psychology
A Critical Introduction
, pp. 207 - 240
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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Special issue on consumer–provider research. Patient Education and Counseling, 50 (2003). This special issue gives a good account of the state of the research in this field at present. A number of papers highlight the importance of considering contextual factors in research on interactions between patients and health professionals, as well as the importance of developing theory and moving beyond descriptive accounts. It is a good starting point to the field (even though many papers focus primarily on communication with cancer patients).
Kreps, G. L. (2001). Consumer/provider communication research: a personal plea to address issues of ecological validity, relational development, message diversity and situational constraints. Journal of Health Psychology, 6, 597–601. This paper provides a critical commentary on the research in this area. Kreps highlights the importance of terminology, and uses the terms ‘consumer’ and ‘provider’ to make the research field more inclusive of a variety of relationships between health care professionals and their patients and other relevant people. He also reviews some of the areas in this field that require further consideration and thought, and a higher level of sophistication.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Michie, S., Miles, J. & Weinman, J. (2003). Patient-centredness in chronic illness: what is it and does it matter?Patient Education and Counseling, 51, 197–206. Michie and colleagues provide a solid examination of the patient-centredness concept in this paper, and explore how it has been employed in research on chronic illness. One of the key messages here is that ‘patient-centredness’ is not a unitary construct, and the importance of defining key constructs adequately in research. Furthermore, what patient-centredness may mean in one population (e.g. people with chronic illness) may not be the same in another population (e.g. children with acute conditions).CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Crossley, M. L. (2000). ‘Managing’ illness: relationships between doctors and patients. In , M. L. Crossley, Rethinking health psychology (pp. 130–57). Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. In this chapter Crossley casts a critical eye over the doctor–patient interaction field. She provides a good overview of some of the critiques made of this field of research, and highlights some of the assumptions and implications of the traditional approach to the topic and the traditional research methods employed.Google Scholar

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