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Doctor and Patient Judge Each Other by Behavior and Appearance

By HERWriter Guide
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Anxiety related image Photo: Getty Images

It has often been said that body language accounts for the majority of our communication and it's not so much what we say, but how we say it. Tone, eye contact, facial expressions and how we move our bodies can have an enormous impact on how we perceive a person's interactions with us.

For doctors, their "bedside manner" is often touted as a reason patients stay with her as a patient, or take their health care needs elsewhere.

In an recent University of Michigan study, some interesting (and perhaps not too surprising) findings emerged regarding how doctors and patients view each other.

Based on behavior, attitude, appearance and other subtle cues, patients view their doctors a certain way. For doctors, these faint cues coming from their patients can even influence the treatment prescribed.

After studying 18 doctors and 36 patients undergoing general checkups, researchers found that doctors took the appearance of the patient into account, even though the checkup was a routine visit. How they spoke and behaved was noted in order to check for possible depression.

Body language and non-verbal cues were watched to see if a patient may be leaving important information or avoiding answering certain questions. This can be a sign of possible addictions or disorders (withholding information about drug, alcohol or even food intake) or even signs of abuse.

Patients judge doctors by whether they appear to be in a hurry, how much time they spend with them, and whether good eye contact is made. How comfortable a doctor made them feel also made a big impact.

Particularly if a patient is about to talk about something difficult, embarrassing or frightening, how a doctor behaves in the room can be the deciding factor on whether the patient can talk about it or not. First impressions last, and a patient can made these decisions within a minute or two or the doctor entering the room.

The lead researcher in the study, Dr. Michael Fetters, from the University of Michigan Medical School stated that the findings are similar to other studies done on patient/doctor relationships.

He concluded by saying that "... in the future, we hope this method of recording and reviewing these types of interactions can inform interventions designed to improve medical decision making and doctor-patient interaction by providing a more complete understanding of the kind of signals upon which doctors and patients rely."

Tell Us
Is body language and other non-verbal communication from your doctor a factor in why you stay with him/her or move to another health care provider? Do you have a story to tell about your patient/doctor relationship?


Medicine Plus. Doctors Consider Nonverbal Cues in Medical Decisions. Web. Oct. 6 2011.

Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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