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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2016 Jan;51(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2015.07.008. Epub 2015 Aug 20.

Differences in Physicians' Verbal and Nonverbal Communication With Black and White Patients at the End of Life.

Author information

1
Department of Medicine, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
2
Department of Consumer Sciences, College of Health and Human Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
3
Department of Critical Care Medicine, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
4
Department of Medicine, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Center for Research on Health Care, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Electronic address: aeb2@pitt.edu.

Abstract

CONTEXT:

Black patients are more likely than white patients to die in the intensive care unit with life-sustaining treatments. Differences in patient- and/or surrogate-provider communication may contribute to this phenomenon.

OBJECTIVES:

To test whether hospital-based physicians use different verbal and/or nonverbal communication with black and white simulated patients and their surrogates.

METHODS:

We conducted a randomized factorial trial of the relationship between patient race and physician communication using high-fidelity simulation. Using a combination of probabilistic and convenience sampling, we recruited 33 hospital-based physicians in western Pennsylvania who completed two encounters with prognostically similar, critically and terminally ill black and white elders with identical treatment preferences. We then conducted detailed content analysis of audio and video recordings of the encounters, coding verbal emotion-handling and shared decision-making behaviors, and nonverbal behaviors (time interacting with the patient and/or surrogate, with open vs. closed posture, and touching the patient and physical proximity). We used a paired t-test to compare each subjects' summed verbal and nonverbal communication scores with the black patient compared to the white patient.

RESULTS:

Subject physicians' verbal communication scores did not differ by patient race (black vs. white: 8.4 vs. 8.4, P-value = 0.958). However, their nonverbal communication scores were significantly lower with the black patient than with the white patient (black vs. white: 2.7 vs. 2.9, P-value 0.014).

CONCLUSION:

In this small regional sample, hospital-based physicians have similar verbal communication behaviors when discussing end-of-life care for otherwise similar black and white patients but exhibit significantly fewer positive, rapport-building nonverbal cues with black patients.

KEYWORDS:

Communication; disparities; provider behavior; race; terminal care

PMID:
26297851
PMCID:
PMC4698224
DOI:
10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2015.07.008
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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