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Non-verbal clues guide doctor-patient relationships, clinical judgments, U-M study finds
Date:9/25/2011

t five of the 18 southeast Michigan doctors who participated in the study contributed 64 percent of all the comments, which were given while reviewing a recording of the interaction.

One doctor was particularly attuned to how non-verbal communication spoke to patients, the authors note. "I use my body a lot," the doctor reported. "It's nice to see that I don't look rushed in the room. Although in my mind, I'm whirling. OK, so I sit down, I try to relax and look relaxed."

Doctors also reported using these tacit clues to aid in diagnosing a patient, says Henry, a researcher in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program. They discussed observing the patient in a general way for signs that they might be depressed or that they were not revealing the whole of their concerns. "It's mostly looking at the patient. Do they look healthy?" one doctor said.

Another doctor noted this ability to put together the puzzle pieces of a patient's verbal and non-verbal communication becomes intuitive: "How do you know what Aunt Martha looks like? Because you know what she looks like, you've seen her lots of times. I can't detail as to why I know that, but I've been down the road long enough to know"

The way a patient comports himself may give a doctor clues as to whether non-specific symptoms like weight gain, fatigue and high blood pressure are signals of depression or whether something else may be responsible, like a rare condition such as Cushing syndrome, which may indicate an adrenal tumor, the authors note.

Patients, on the other hand, were mainly concerned with clues that indicated their place within the doctor-patient relationship Did the doctor make them feel comfortable? Did the doctor seem like she was in a hurry? Did she put them at ease? Was the doctor a good listener? Did he make eye contact?

While doctors and patients keyed in on particular examples in many of the examinations, sometimes they were un
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Contact: Ian Demsky
idemsky@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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