Non-verbal behavior of the Doctor & Patient Perception

Non-verbal behavior of the Doctor

Besides verbal communication in medical consultation, non-verbal behavior (communication) of doctor is equally or even more important to get patient attention. Unlike verbal communication, non-verbal clues are difficult to interpret and demonstrate doctor’s attitude, emotions and his involvement with the patients. Accordingly, patient may choose to respond. In absence of proper eye contact, head nods, voice tone and gesture a meaningful doctor-patient interaction would compromise. Even doctor fails to recognize their own non-verbal behavior. The busy clinics and over emphasis on gadgets and computers have stolen the mighty value of non-verbal communication between patient and doctors. Patient complaining of doctor’s indifference towards his illness, prescribing medicines without complete listening to problems and delegating further course of action to their staffs are some of the pain that patient brings back after consulting the doctor. It should be remembered that Doctor also acts like a “Drug” for patients. His assertiveness, confidence, love, compassion and behavior all are transmitted to the patients during consultation that helps him to recover from illness besides medicines as per given instructions. The exaggerated statement by the patient regarding doctors’ malpractice is one of several outcome that results due to improper doctor-patient interaction.

In the era of increased patient participation in the treatment decision, patient is allowed to ask more questions. In such high expectation by the patient, any resistance by the doctor will be perceived as lack of professionalism. Inadequate eye contact with the patient due to excessive focus on his medical records or computer search will put off the patient and several vital information could be missed out. Some basic strategic action to separate communication and review of records would help resolve this issue and improve non-verbal communication.

Non-verbal Behavior of the Patient & Doctor’s Perception:

Similarly both verbal communication and non-verbal clues by the patients are important for the assessment of disease and help reach the diagnosis much accurate. Needless to say, non-verbal communication reflects more of mental state of the patient than physical suffering. Such non-verbal expression has significant role in psychiatric practice, however, these are equally important in other areas of medicine too.

Patient hiding direct eye contact while narrating his illness may suggest a disorder with social stigma. The patients with poor literacy or socio-economic background may fear to have eye contact with the doctor. It may require several meetings with the same doctor before they open up. This is a common observation during medical camps organized in rural areas for underprivileged population. Several malingering patients try to avoid direct eye contact in fear of being caught for their manipulated symptoms. A detailed history of the patient that also include his family history, occupation, marital status etc. can bring lots of information that could be associated with his current illness.