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Communication Research

The average physician conducts between 140,000 and 160,000 medical interviews in the lifetime of his or her practice, making it the most frequently used medical procedure. Strong evidence links interpersonal processes of care to a variety of positive outcomes. For example, in studies done by faculty at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, patients who report greater involvement in medical care are more satisfied with their physicians, report more understanding, reassurance and perceived control over their illness, and have improvements in medical conditions. Patients who explicitly report being treated with respect and dignity have higher trust, are more adherent to care and are more likely to receive optimal preventive care.

Studies that have directly observed patient-physician communication have demonstrated a positive effect of physician communication behaviors on patient outcomes including pain relief, satisfaction, compliance, and recall of information. In their interactions with African-American patients, physicians have been shown to exhibit less nonverbal attention, empathy, courtesy, and information giving, to adopt a more “narrowly biomedical” communication style, to spend less time providing health education, chatting and answering questions, and to be more verbally dominant and exhibit more negative emotional tone than with white patients. Finally, studies have found that physicians offer more information and have a more positive affect with patients for whom they report having a great deal of respect, that patients are fairly well able to judge whether or not their physician has respect for them.

Faculty in Hopkins GIM have interests and expertise in examining a variety of the interpersonal aspects of health care delivery. Faculty use standard methods such as direct observation of patient-provider encounters using audiotaped analysis and patient experience of care using patient ratings, and have forged novel areas such as the impact of race/ethnicity on the patient-provider relationship and the impact of healthcare providers’ attitudes on patient experiences and outcomes.

Information about the faculty working in this research area and their projects is provided below.

Photo of Dr. Mary Catherine Beach, M.D., M.P.H.

Beach, Mary Catherine, M.D., M.P.H.

Professor of Medicine
Research Interests: Health care quality for underserved populations, Patient-clinician communication, Sickle-cell disease, HIV and substance abuse, Bioethics, Respect
Photo of Dr. Gail Valerie Berkenblit, M.D., Ph.D.

Berkenblit, Gail Valerie, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Medicine
Associate Program Director for Ambulatory Education, Osler Medicine Training Program
Research Interests: Design and evaluation of an internet-based curriculum, Improving resident training in HIV outpatient care
Photo of Dr. Lisa Angeline Cooper, M.D., M.P.H.

Cooper, Lisa Angeline, M.D., M.P.H.

Professor of Medicine
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Health and Healthcare Equity
James F. Fries Professor of Medicine
Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity
Core Faculty, Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research
Research Interests: Race/ethnic health disparities, Patient-centered care, Patient-Physician relationships and communication
Photo of Dr. Gail Geller, Sc.D.

Geller, Gail, Sc.D.

Professor of Medicine
Professor of Pediatrics
Photo of Dr. Kimberly Anne Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H.

Gudzune, Kimberly Anne, M.D., M.P.H.

Assistant Professor of Medicine
Research Interests: Obesity, Patient-provider relationships, Social networks
Photo of Dr. Debra L. Roter, D.P.H.

Roter, Debra L., D.P.H.

Joint Appointment in Medicine
Joint Appointment in Oncology
University Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Genomic Literacy and Communication
Research Interests: Patient activation interventions, Provider skill training, Doctor-patient communication, Roter Interaction Analysis System RIAS, Race and gender disparities

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