Predicting patient satisfaction from physicians' nonverbal communication skills.
The relationship between physicians' nonverbal communication skills (their ability to communicate and to understand facial expression, body movement and voice tone cues to emotion) and their patients' satisfaction with medical care was examined in 2 studies. The research involved 71 residents in internal medicine and 462 of their ambulatory and hospitalized patients. Standardized, reliable and valid measures of nonverbal communication skills were administered to the physicians. Their scores on these tests were correlated with ratings they received from a sample of their patients on measures of satisfaction with the technical aspects and the socioemotional aspects (or art) of the medical care they received. While the nonverbal communication skills of the physicians bore little relationship to patients' ratings of the technical quality of care, measures of these skills did predict patient satisfaction with the art of medical care received. Across both samples, physicians who were more sensitive to body movement and posture cues to emotion (the channel suggested by nonverbal researchers as the one in which true affect can be perceived) received higher ratings from their patients on the art of care than did less sensitive physicians. In addition, physicians who were successful at expressing emotion through their nonverbal communications tended to receive higher ratings from patients on the art of care than did physicians who were less effective communicators. The implications of successfully identifying characteristics of physicians with whom patients are satisfied are discussed.
DiMatteo, MR; Taranta, A; Friedman, HS; Prince, LM
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