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Patient Educ Couns. 2016 Jul;99(7):1138-1145. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2016.01.012. Epub 2016 Jan 21.

The relationship between physician humility, physician-patient communication, and patient health.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, USA. Electronic address: peter.ruberton@email.ucr.edu.
2
Department of Psychology, Armstrong State University, Savannah, GA, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, USA.
4
Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA.
5
Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, UK.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Cultural portrayals of physicians suggest an unclear and even contradictory role for humility in the physician-patient relationship. Despite the social importance of humility, however, little empirical research has linked humility in physicians with patient outcomes or the characteristics of the doctor-patient visit. The present study investigated the relationship between physician humility, physician-patient communication, and patients' perceptions of their health during a planned medical visit.

METHODS:

Primary care physician-patient interactions (297 patients across 100 physicians) were rated for the physician's humility and the effectiveness of the physician-patient communication. Additionally, patients reported their overall health and physicians and patients reported their satisfaction with the interaction.

RESULTS:

Within-physician fluctuations in physician humility and self-reported patient health positively predicted one another, and mean-level differences in physician humility predicted effective physician-patient communication, even when controlling for the patient's and physician's satisfaction with the visit and the physician's frustration with the patient.

CONCLUSIONS:

The results suggest that humble, rather than paternalistic or arrogant, physicians are most effective at working with their patients.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS:

Interventions to improve physician humility may promote better communication between health care providers and patients, and, in turn, better patient outcomes.

KEYWORDS:

Humility; Perceived health; Physician–patient communication

PMID:
26830544
DOI:
10.1016/j.pec.2016.01.012
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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