Predictors of communication preferences in patients with chronic low back pain
Erik Farin, Lukas Gramm, Erika Schmidt
University Freiburg, Medical Center, Department of Quality Management and Social Medicine, Freiburg, Germany
Background: The objective of this exploratory study was to identify patient-related predictors of communication preferences in patients with chronic low back pain for various dimensions of patient-physician communication (patient participation and orientation, effective and open communication, emotionally supportive communication, communication about personal circumstances).
Methods: Eleven rehabilitation centers from various parts of Germany participated in collection of data between 2009 and 2011. A total of 701 patients with chronic low back pain were surveyed at the start of rehabilitation. The patient questionnaire captured communication preferences, pain impact, pain intensity, and psychologic variables (fear avoidance beliefs, illness coherence, control beliefs, communication self-efficacy, and personality characteristics). The rehabilitation physicians filled out a documentation sheet containing information on diagnosis, inability to work, duration of the illness, and comorbidity at the beginning and end of rehabilitation. Hierarchical regression analyses were performed.
Results: On average, effective, open, and patient-centered communication was very important for patients with back pain, emotionally supportive communication was important, and communication about personal circumstances was somewhat important. The variance in communication preferences explained by the predictors studied here was 8%–19%. Older patients showed a lower preference for patient-centered and open communication, but a higher preference for communication about personal circumstances. Patients with psychologic risk factors (eg, fear avoidance beliefs), extroverted patients, and patients with high self-efficacy in patient-physician interaction generally had higher expectations of the physician's communicative behavior.
Conclusion: Providers should take into consideration the fact that patients with back pain have a strong need for effective, open, and patient-centered communication. A flexible approach to communication needs appears to be especially important for communication about emotional and personal circumstances, because the patients differ most clearly in this respect. Personal characteristics provided only initial clues to possible preferences; for more precision, an individual assessment (by means of questionnaires or discussion) is needed.
Keywords: patient-physician relationship, patient-physician communication, preferences, low back pain, rehabilitation
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