The physician-patient relationship : empathy, trust, and intentions to adhere to medical recommendations

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Authors
Thomas, Nancy A.
Advisor
Nicholas, Donald R.
Issue Date
2004
Keyword
Degree
Thesis (Ph. D.)
Department
Department of Counseling Psychology and Guidance Services
Other Identifiers
Abstract

The main purpose of this research study was to identify variables within the physician-patient relationship that may have a relationship to patients' intentions to adhere to medical recommendations. A literature review regarding the physician-patient relationship identifies two important variables: trust and empathy. This study investigated the impact of trust and empathy on patients' intentions to adhere to medical recommendations. Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1988) (Figure 1) was used as a theoretical cognitive framework to help conceptualize the proposed study. Trust and perceived empathy were proposed as variables in the physician-patient relationship that influence a patient's subjective norm, attitude toward the behavior, and perceived behavioral control sufficiently to affect the patient's intentions to adhere to medical recommendations (Figure 2).The participants in this investigation included 128 adult Family Practice Clinic patients, who completed a set of questionnaires following an appointment with their physician. Participants completed the measures of the Perceived Empathy Scale (Plank, Minton, & Reid, 1996), the Trust in Physicians Scale (Anderson & Dedrick, 1990), and a short author generated measure of intentions to follow medical recommendations. The survey included four demographic variables: sex, age, marital status, and number ofphysicians' appointments.A hierarchical regression was performed which indicated that trust in the physician was not a statistically significant predictor of intentions to adhere to medical recommendations. However, patient perceived empathy from the physician was a statistically significant predictor of patients' intentions to adhere to medical recommendations. The only statistically significant demographic predictor of intentions to adhere to medical recommendations was marital status, indicating that participants who were married were more likely to express intentions to follow medical recommendations that those who were not.