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Public Health Rep. 1983 Mar-Apr; 98(2): 141–145.
PMCID: PMC1424419

Impact of divergent evaluations by physicians and patients of patients' complaints.


Physicians' estimates of patients' anxiety, discomfort or pain, and activity limitation were compared with reports by their patients on the same dimensions. The data were collected as part of a series of quality assessment studies at a prepaid group practice serving 19,000 people in a Mid-Atlantic metropolitan area. Analysis of the data showed that physicians underestimated the three dimensions 35 percent of the time and that activity limitation was the dimension most often underestimated. Patients whose physicians correctly estimated their discomfort or pain were more likely to receive prescriptions than patients whose physicians underestimated their discomfort or pain. Patients whose physicians underestimated their activity limitation were most likely to report dissatisfaction with the treatment given. The results are consistent with a growing body of evidence suggesting that physicians who show concern about their patients and a desire to understand their problems establish better therapeutic relationships.

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