The aim of this study was to gain deeper insight into relational aspects of the medical communication pattern in intercultural consultations at GP practices in the Netherlands. We ask whether there are differences in the verbal interaction of Dutch GPs with immigrant and Dutch patients. Data were drawn from 144 adult patient interviews and video observations of consultations between the patients and 31 Dutch GPs. The patient group consisted of 61 non-Western immigrants (Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese, Antillean, Cape Verdian) and 83 Dutch participants. Affective and instrumental aspects of verbal communication were assessed using Roter's Interaction Analysis System (RIAS). Patients' cultural background was assessed by ethnicity, language proficiency, level of education, religiosity and cultural views (in terms of being more traditional or more modern). Consultations with the non-Western immigrant patients (especially those from Turkey and Morocco) were well over 2 min shorter, and the power distance between GPs and these patients was greater when compared to the Dutch patients. Major differences in verbal interaction were observed on the affective behavior dimensions, but not on the instrumental dimensions. Doctors invested more in trying to understand the immigrant patients, while in the case of Dutch patients they showed more involvement and empathy. Dutch patients seemed to be more assertive in the medical conversation. The differences are discussed in terms of patients' ethnic background, cultural views (e.g. practicing a religion) and linguistic barriers. It is concluded that attention to cultural diversity does matter, as this leads to different medical communication patterns. A two-way strategy is recommended for improving medical communication, with implications for both doctor and patient behavior.

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Social Science & Medicine
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)