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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.  Does burnout among doctors affect their involvement in patients' mental health problems? A study of videotaped consultations 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:60.
General practitioners' (GPs') feelings of burnout or dissatisfaction may affect their patient care negatively, but it is unknown if these negative feelings also affect their mental health care. GPs' available time, together with specific communication tools, are important conditions for providing mental health care. We investigated if GPs who feel burnt out or dissatisfied with the time available for their patients, are less inclined to encourage their patients to disclose their distress, and have shorter consultations, in order to gain time and energy. This may result in less psychological evaluations of patients' complaints.
We used 1890 videotaped consultations from a nationally representative sample of 126 Dutch GPs to analyse GPs' communication and the duration of their consultations. Burnout was subdivided into emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced accomplishment. Multilevel regression analyses were used to investigate which subgroups of GPs differed significantly.
GPs with feelings of exhaustion or dissatisfaction with the available time have longer consultations compared to GPs without these feelings. Exhausted GPs, and GPs with feelings of depersonalisation, talk more about psychological or social topics in their consultations. GPs with feelings of reduced accomplishment are an exception: they communicate less affectively, are less patient-centred and have less eye contact with their patients compared to GPs without reduced accomplishment.
We found no relationship between GPs' feelings of burnout or dissatisfaction with the available time and their psychological evaluations of patients' problems.
GPs' feelings of burnout or dissatisfaction with the time available for their patients do not obstruct their diagnosis and awareness of patients' psychological problems. On the contrary, GPs with high levels of exhaustion or depersonalisation, and GPs who are dissatisfied with the available time, sometimes provide more opportunities to discuss mental health problems. This increases the chance that appropriate care will be found for patients with mental health problems. On the other hand, these GPs are themselves more likely to retire, or risk burnout, because of their dissatisfaction. Therefore these GPs may benefit from training or personal coaching to decrease the chance that the process of burnout will get out of hand.
PMCID: PMC2754435  PMID: 19706200
4.  Does the attention General Practitioners pay to their patients' mental health problems add to their workload? A cross sectional national survey 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:71.
The extra workload induced by patients with mental health problems may sometimes cause GPs to be reluctant to become involved in mental health care. It is known that dealing with patients' mental health problems is more time consuming in specific situations such as in consultations. But it is unclear if GPs who are more often involved in patients' mental health problems, have a higher workload than other GPs. Therefore we investigated the following: Is the attention GPs pay to their patients' mental health problems related to their subjective and objective workload?
Secondary analyses were made using data from the Second Dutch National Survey of General Practice, a cross sectional study conducted in the Netherlands in 2000–2002. A nationally representative selection of 195 GPs from 104 general practices participated in this National Survey. Data from: 1) a GP questionnaire; 2) a detailed log of the GP's time use during a week and; 3) an electronic medical registration system, including all patients' contacts during a year, were used. Multiple regression analyses were conducted with the GP's workload as an outcome measure, and the GP's attention for mental health problems as a predictor. GP, patient, and practice characteristics were included in analyses as potential confounders.
Results show that GPs with a broader perception of their role towards mental health care do not have more working hours or patient contacts than GPs with a more limited perception of their role. Neither are they more exhausted or dissatisfied with the available time. Also the number of patient contacts in which a psychological or social diagnosis is made is not related to the GP's objective or subjective workload.
The GP's attention for a patient's mental health problems is not related to their workload. The GP's extra workload when dealing in a consultation with patients' mental health problems, as is demonstrated in earlier research, is not automatically translated into a higher overall workload. This study does not confirm GPs' complaints that mental health care is one of the components of their job that consumes a lot of their time and energy. Several explanations for these results are discussed.
PMCID: PMC1693554  PMID: 17147799
5.  Shifts in doctor-patient communication between 1986 and 2002: a study of videotaped General Practice consultations with hypertension patients 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:62.
Departing from the hypotheses that over the past decades patients have become more active participants and physicians have become more task-oriented, this study tries to identify shifts in GP and patient communication patterns between 1986 and 2002.
A repeated cross-sectional observation study was carried out in 1986 and 2002, using the same methodology. From two existing datasets of videotaped routine General Practice consultations, a selection was made of consultations with hypertension patients (102 in 1986; 108 in 2002). GP and patient communication was coded with RIAS (Roter Interaction Analysis System). The data were analysed, using multilevel techniques.
No gender or age differences were found between the patient groups in either study period. Contrary to expectations, patients were less active in recent consultations, talking less, asking fewer questions and showing less concerns or worries. GPs provided more medical information, but expressed also less often their concern about the patients' medical conditions. In addition, they were less involved in process-oriented behaviour and partnership building. Overall, these results suggest that consultations in 2002 were more task-oriented and businesslike than sixteen years earlier.
The existence of a more equal relationship in General Practice, with patients as active and critical consumers, is not reflected in this sample of hypertension patients. The most important shift that could be observed over the years was a shift towards a more businesslike, task-oriented GP communication pattern, reflecting the recent emphasis on evidence-based medicine and protocolized care. The entrance of the computer in the consultation room could play a role. Some concerns may be raised about the effectiveness of modern medicine in helping patients to voice their worries.
PMCID: PMC1630692  PMID: 17064407

Results 1-5 (5)