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Br J Gen Pract. 2004 Sep;54(506):673-8.

Influence of patient characteristics on doctors' questioning and lifestyle advice for coronary heart disease: a UK/US video experiment.

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Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey.



Risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) vary with patient characteristics but we do not know how this influences doctors' questioning and advice giving.


To find out whether four patient characteristics - age (55 versus 75 years), sex, class, and race - influence primary care doctors' questioning style and advice giving in the United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US).


A factorial experiment using video simulation of a patient consulting with CHD symptoms, designed to systematically alter their age, sex, class, and race.


Surrey, south east London and the West Midlands in the UK, and Massachusetts in the US.


A stratified random sample of 128 general practitioners (GPs) in the UK and 128 primary care doctors in the US were shown video vignettes in their practices of patient consultations, and interviewed about patient management strategies.


Sex and age influence doctors' questioning of patients presenting with CHD. Men are asked more questions overall, particularly about smoking and drinking. Middle-aged patients are asked more about their lifestyle. Advice about smoking is given to more men than women, and to more mid-life than older patients. Women doctors question patients about their lifestyle more often, and give more advice to patients about their diet.


Doctors' questioning strategies are influenced by patients' sex and age, suggesting that doctors may miss smoking- and alcohol-related factors among women and older patients with CHD. Doctors give more advice about smoking to men, despite sex equality in smoking prevalence. Therefore, doctors' information seeking and advice giving do not match known patient risk factors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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