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1.  Concerns voiced by patients and GPs’ responses during psychosocial visits in primary care: a historical cross-sectional study 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15(1):188.
In a recent study comparing psychosocial consultations prior to and after the implementation of national clinical guidelines in the Netherlands, we found that general practitioners (GPs) showed less empathy in the more recent consultations. As a consequence, patients possibly have less scope to express their worries. The objective is to investigate whether patients have become more reluctant to open up about their concerns during psychosocial consultations and how GPs respond.
Consultations from previous study samples videotaped between 1977 and 2008 and categorized by GPs as ‘completely psychosocial’ were selected for the present study. These consultations were observed using the Verona Coding Definitions of Emotional Sequences (VR-CoDES) to capture cues and concerns expressed by patients and GPs’ immediate responses. We compared consultations prior to (N = 121) and after (N = 391) introduction of national clinical guidelines in the 1990s.
In 92% of the consultations, patients presented at least one worry. These were most often expressed implicitly. However, the proportion of consultations containing at least one explicit concern changed from 24% to 37% over time. The increased number of expressed cues and concerns was partly explained by a change in GP characteristics; the latter sample contained more female and more experienced GPs. Furthermore, cues and concerns were more often expressed during later phases of consultations in recent years.
Our study shows that patients have become somewhat more explicit in expressing their worries. However, GPs need to be aware that, still, most worries are expressed implicitly and that new concerns may appear towards the end of consultations.
PMCID: PMC4247880  PMID: 25421612
Doctor-patient relations; General practice; Cues; Empathy; Psychosocial factors
2.  Patients’ views on changes in doctor-patient communication between 1982 and 2001: a mixed-methods study 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:80.
Doctor-patient communication has been influenced over time by factors such as the rise of evidence-based medicine and a growing emphasis on patient-centred care. Despite disputes in the literature on the tension between evidence-based medicine and patient-centered medicine, patients’ views on what constitutes high quality of doctor-patient communication are seldom an explicit topic for research. The aim of this study is to examine whether analogue patients (lay people judging videotaped consultations) perceive shifts in the quality of doctor-patient communication over a twenty-year period.
Analogue patients (N = 108) assessed 189 videotaped general practice consultations from two periods (1982–1984 and 2000–2001). They provided ratings on three dimensions (scale 1–10) and gave written feedback. With a mixed-methods research design, we examined these assessments quantitatively (in relation to observed communication coded with RIAS) and qualitatively.
1) The quantitative analyses showed that biomedical communication and rapport building were positively associated with the quality assessments of videotaped consultations from the first period, but not from the second. Psychosocial communication and personal remarks were related to positive quality assessments of both periods; 2) the qualitative analyses showed that in both periods, participants provided the same balance between positive and negative comments. Listening, giving support, and showing respect were considered equally important in both periods. We identified shifts in the participants’ observations on how GPs explained things to the patient, the division of roles and responsibilities, and the emphasis on problem-focused communication (first period) versus solution-focused communication (last period).
Analogue patients recognize shifts in the quality of doctor-patient communication from two different periods, including a shift from problem-focused communication to solution-focused communication, and they value an egalitarian doctor-patient relationship. The two research methods were complementary; based on the quantitative analyses we found shifts in communication, which we confirmed and specified in our qualitative analyses.
PMCID: PMC3460773  PMID: 22873783
Quality of care; Doctor-patient communication; Analogue patients; General practice; Video observation; Mixed-methods design
3.  Changes in the quality of doctor–patient communication between 1982 and 2001: an observational study on hypertension care as perceived by patients and general practitioners 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000203.
The rise of evidence-based medicine may have implications for the doctor–patient interaction. In recent decades, a shift towards a more task-oriented approach in general practice indicates a development towards more standardised healthcare.
To examine whether this shift is accompanied by changes in perceived quality of doctor–patient communication.
GP observers and patient observers performed quality assessments of Dutch General Practice consultations on hypertension videotaped in 1982–1984 and 2000–2001. In the first cohort (1982–1984) 81 patients were recorded by 23 GPs and in the second cohort (2000–2001) 108 patients were recorded by 108 GPs. The GP observers and patient observers rated the consultations on a scale from 1 to 10 on three quality dimensions: medical technical quality, psychosocial quality and quality of interpersonal behaviour. Multilevel regression analyses were used to test whether a change occurred over time.
The findings showed a significant improvement over time on all three dimensions. There was no difference between the quality assessments of GP observers and patient observers. The three different dimensions were moderately to highly correlated and the assessments of GP observers showed less variability in the second cohort.
Hypertension consultations in general practice in the Netherlands received higher quality assessments by general practitioners and patients on medical technical quality, psychosocial quality and the quality of interpersonal behaviour in 2000–2001 as compared with the 1980s. The shift towards a more task-oriented approach in hypertension consultations does not seem to detract from individual attention for the patient. In addition, there is less variation between general practitioners in the quality assessments of more recent consultations. The next step in this line of research is to unravel the factors that determine patients' quality assessments of doctor–patient communication.
Article summary
Article focus
Doctor–patient communication in hypertension consultations has become more business-like and task-oriented in the past few decades.
Shifts in communication styles in general practice may have produced changes in quality assessments of doctor–patient communication by general practitioners and patients.
Key messages
Compared with 20 years earlier (1982–1984), hypertension consultations recorded in 2000–2001 received higher quality assessments by GP observers and patient observers on three distinct quality dimensions: medical technical quality, psychosocial quality and the quality of interpersonal behaviour.
There was less variation between general practitioners in the quality assessments of more recent consultations.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Videotaped real-life general practice consultations from two distinct periods were analysed, which means that the findings refer to actual behaviour in general practice.
The quality assessments were made according to the same protocol in both periods.
Assessments of the GPs were executed by contemporary peers, while the assessments of patients were performed retrospectively. However, the concurrence of assessments of patient observers and GP observers in their different contexts reinforces our conclusions.
The generalisability of the findings is restricted to hypertension consultations, which involve a high proportion of repeat visits.
PMCID: PMC3191582  PMID: 22021787

Results 1-3 (3)