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J Community Health. 1979 Summer;4(4):280-90.

Patients' percentions of physicians' behavior: determinants of patient commitment to the therapeutic relationship.


This study examines the hypothesis that patients decide to remain committed to their primary care physicians (or to leave them and "doctor shop") primarily on the basis of the "socioemotional" aspects of the physicians' behavior. It was hypothesized that physicians' demonstrations of caring for patients as people and their openness of communication would be predictive of patient commitment to the therapeutic relationship, and that the physicians' competence and role performance (including thoroughness of information gathering) as perceived by patients would be less important. Interviews were conducted with 342 inpatients and ambulatory patients in a large urban community teaching hospital after a visit with one of 38 house officers in internal medicine. Each patient was asked to (a) rate his or her physician on nine performance variables, (b) indicate his or her intention to return to that physician in the future or seek a different one, and (c) state his or her education, occupation, age, and present illness condition. The physicians' socioemotional behavior (caring and openness to communication), as well as their accessibility, tended to weight heavily in patients' decisions to continue the physician-patient relationship. In addition, the importance of some specific physician behaviors (for example, the physician's willingness to explain the medical condition) varied among subpopulations of patients.

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