Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

II
Provider-Patient
Interaction Issues
Teresa L. Thompson

Originally, provider-patient interaction was the predominant area of research in the field of health communication. As editor of the journal Health Communication, for which I began accepting submissions in 1987, I found that almost all of the pieces I received in the early years focused on some aspect of the relationship between communication and health care delivery (i.e., the provision of services by health professionals). This emphasis has changed over the years, and researchers have broadened their perspective considerably, but the provider-patient interaction still remains a key area of study. The chapters in this part of the book reflect that emphasis. They focus mostly on what happens when a patient and a health care provider interact with each other. They review and critique the relevant research as well as provide practical suggestions for patients and providers and intriguing suggestions for future research. In essence, they set a research agenda for the study of provider-patient interaction for the 21st century. For a more general overview of provider-patient interaction, the reader is referred to Thompson and Parrott (2002).

The first chapter in this part discusses communicative skill development. This topic, for the most part, has been examined by experts in the fields of communication, medicine, nursing, and public health, and its study has yielded rich and interesting insights into the health communication process. In fact, the best work on communicative skill development is theoretically grounded and provides new theoretical insights but also has practical applications. No only does it assess the communicative skills that are most important during provider-patient interaction, it tries to determine ways in which those skills can be improved. Although most of the research in this area has focused on the communicative skills of health care providers, the authors of this chapter, Don Cegala and Stefne Broz, also review studies that have examined the communicative skills of patients as they interact with their providers. Given the dyadic nature of all communication, focusing on either the provider or the patient alone would provide an incomplete picture of provider-patient interaction.

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