Evidence to support listening

Beckman and Frankdll (1984)

  • doctors frequently interrupted patients before they had completed their opening statement — after a mean time of only 18 seconds!
  • only 23% of patients completed their opening statement
  • in only one of 51 interrupted statements was the patient allowed to complete their opening statement later
  • 94% of all interruptions concluded with the doctor obtaining the floor
  • the longer the doctor waited before the interruption, the more complaints were elicited
  • allowing the patient to complete the opening statement led to a significant reduction in late-arising problems
  • clarifying or closed questions were the most frequent cause of interruption but any utterance by the doctor that specifically encouraged the patient to give further information about any one problem could also cause disruption: this, perhaps surprisingly, included echoing of the patient’s words
  • in 34 our of 51 visits, the doctor interrupted the patient after the initial concern, apparently assuming that the first complaint was the chief one
  • the serial order in which the patients presented their problems was not related to their clinical importance
  • most patients who were allowed to complete their opening statement without interruption took less than 60 seconds and none took longer than 150 seconds, even when encouraged to continue.
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