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Finding the right words: Provider-patient discussions can help domestic violence victims speak up
Date:12/6/2007

PHILADELPHIA Researchers at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and other sites have found that doctors and other health care providers can better their chances of identifying and helping victims of domestic violence by changing the way they ask patients questions.

In a large study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found a number of communication pitfalls when emergency care providers discussed domestic violence with patients. Some examples: Providers often stumbled over their words, failed to acknowledge a disclosure of abuse or abruptly changed the subject. Occasionally, they screened for abuse in the presence of the womans partner.

The study also revealed several best practices for communications. Follow-up questions and open-ended queries, for instance, were found to be helpful in prompting patients to disclose abuse. Patients also tended to open up to providers who showed empathy and concern or those who followed up on non-medical clues raised by patients, such when the patient talked about stress.

We found that probing asking even one more question was associated with almost three times the rate of patient disclosure of experiences with abuse, says lead author Karin V. Rhodes, MD, MS, Director of the Division of Health Policy Research in Penns Department of Emergency Medicine.

Previous studies showed that patients can be hesitant to disclose their abuse experiences to doctors, but information was scarce about why communication breaks down. To get clues into what happens during these private talks, investigators audiotaped 293 emergency room interactions that included a discussion of domestic violence. Seventy-seven patients disclosed experience with domestic violence during the interviews. Researchers identified several strategies that seemed to prompt more disclosure of abuse, highlighting the need to ask open-ended questions that didnt use phrases like victim or domestic violence, which re
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5659
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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