What messages are you unwittingly conveying to your patients through nonverbal cues, and what cues are they sending to you that you may be missing?

A recent study in this month’s issue of Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice found that both doctors’ and patients’ subtle and unspoken cues – including body language, eye contact, physical appearance, and tone of voice – play a role during health maintenance examinations.

Researchers looked at video elicitation interview transcripts involving 18 community-based primary care doctors and 36 patients. Patients often rated the encounter based upon nonverbal cues that convey  whether the physician appears hurried or at ease. They were primarily concerned about the following cues:

Did the doctor make them feel comfortable?

Did the doctor seem like he/she was in a hurry?

Did he/she put them at ease?

Was the doctor a good listener?

Did he/she make eye contact?

Doctors, on the other hand, looked at the nonverbal behavior of patients to help diagnose illness, such as depression. Reviewing patient-doctor interactions may provide a more complete understanding of the kinds of signals upon which doctors and patients rely and, in turn, improve patient care.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know…

What nonverbal cues of your own do you focus on?

How strongly do a patient’s nonverbal cues affect your medical decisions?