To assess the feasibility of studying physician-patient communication in the acute care setting.
We recruited hospitalist physicians and patients from two hospitals within a university system and audio-recorded their first encounter. Recruitment, data collection, and challenges encountered were tracked.
Thirty-two physicians consented (rate 91%). Between August 2008 and March 2009, 441 patients were referred, 210 (48%) were screened, and 119 (66% of 179 eligible) consented. We audio-recorded encounters of 80 patients with 27 physicians. Physicians’ primary concern about participation was interference with their workflow. Addressing their concerns and building the protocol around their schedules facilitated participation. Challenges unique to the acute care setting were: 1) extremely limited time for patient identification, screening, and enrollment during which patients were ill and busy with clinical care activities, and 2) little advance knowledge of when physician-patient encounters would occur. Employing a full-time study coordinator mitigated these challenges.
Physician concerns for participating in communication studies are similar in ambulatory and acute care settings. The acute care setting presents novel challenges for patient recruitment and data collection.
These methods should be used to study provider-patient communication in acute care settings. Future work should test strategies to increase patient enrollment.
Keywords: Physician-patient communication, Hospital, Methodology