Background: Little is known about the causes of problems in communication between health care professionals and ethnic-minority patients. Not only language difficulties, but also cultural differences may result in these problems. This study explores the influence of communication and patient beliefs about health (care) and disease on understanding and compliance of native-born and ethnic-minority patients. Methods: In this descriptive study seven general practices located in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood in Rotterdam participated. Eighty-seven parents who visited their GP with a child for a new health problem took part: more than 50% of them belonged to ethnic-minorities. The consultation between GP and patient was recorded on video and a few days after the consultation patients were interviewed at home. GPs filled out a short questionnaire immediately after the consultation. Patient beliefs and previous experiences with health care were measured by different questionnaires in the home interview. Communication was analysed using the Roter Interaction Analysis System based on the videos. Mutual understanding between GP and patient and therapy compliance was assessed by comparing GP's questionnaires with the home interview with the parents. Results: In 33% of the consultations with ethnic-minority patients (versus 13% with native-born patients) mutual understanding was poor. Different aspects of communication had no influence on mutual understanding. Problems in the relationship with the GP, as experienced by patients, showed a significant relation with mutual understanding. Consultations without mutual understanding more often ended in non-compliance with the prescribed therapy. Conclusion: Ethnic-minority parents more often report problems in their relationship with the GP and they have different beliefs about health and health care from native-born parents. Good relationships between GP and patients are necessary for mutual understanding. Mutual understanding has a strong correlation with compliance. Mutual understanding and consequently compliance is more often poor in consultations with ethnic-minority parents than with native-born parents.

Additional Metadata
Keywords General practice, Intercultural communication, Patient beliefs
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/12.1.63, hdl.handle.net/1765/65868
Journal European Journal of Public Health
Citation
van Wieringen, J.C.M, Harmsen, H, & Bruijnzeels, M.A. (2002). Intercultural communication in general practice. European Journal of Public Health, 12(1), 63–68. doi:10.1093/eurpub/12.1.63