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Doctors expressions of uncertainty and patient confidence

Ogden, J, Fuks, K, Gardner, M, Johnson, S, McLean, M, Martin, P and Shah, R (2002) Doctors expressions of uncertainty and patient confidence Patient Education and Counseling, 48 (2). pp. 171-176.

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Although recent work has encouraged doctors to express their uncertainty to patients as a means to improve communication the potential impact of this on patients remains unclear. The present study first explored the impact of the way in which uncertainty was expressed (behaviourally versus verbally) on doctor's and patient's beliefs about patient confidence. Second the study examined the role of the patient's personal characteristics and knowledge of their doctor as a means to address the broader context. Matched questionnaires were completed by GPs (n = 66, response rate = 92%) and patients (n = 550, response rate = 88%) from practices in the south-east of England. The results showed that the majority of GPs and patients viewed verbal expressions of uncertainty such as 'Let's see what happens' as the most potentially damaging to patient confidence and both GPs and patients believed that asking a nurse for advice would have a detrimental effect. In contrast, behaviours such as using a book or computer were seen as benign or even beneficial activities. When compared directly, GPs and patients agreed about behavioural expressions of uncertainty, but the patients rated the verbal expressions as more detrimental to their confidence than anticipated by the doctors. In terms of the context, patients who indicated that both verbal and behavioural expressions of uncertainty would have the most detrimental impact upon their confidence were younger, lower class and had known their GP for less time. To conclude, patients' reactions to uncertainty occur within the context of the patient's own background and experience, however, some consistent responses can be found. In particular, whilst behavioural expressions of uncertainty may have a positive impact upon patient confidence, verbal expressions have a consistently detrimental effect which is underestimated by GPs. (C) 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Surrey research (other units)
Authors :
Fuks, K
Gardner, M
Johnson, S
McLean, M
Martin, P
Shah, R
Date : 2002
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 17 May 2017 09:08
Last Modified : 24 Jan 2020 16:08

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