Honors College Thesis


Factors of Trust: The Role of Interpersonal Communication and Physical Touch on the Patient-Physician Relationship Public Deposited

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  • The physician-patient relationship is one that relies heavily on the premise of trust. In contemporary medicine, trust is difficult to sustain due to the distractions created by technological documentation, rules, an increasing number of patients seen by a fewer physicians that diminish the human interaction within the relationship. To emphasize the importance of bringing the humanities back to medicine, Dr. Abraham Verghese tells of a story where his non-compliant, terminally-ill patient became compliant just before Dr. Verghese began his routine physical exams. Virtually meaningless as a treatment itself, it nevertheless indicates the notion of care being provided. This research looks to further explore how physicians employ interpersonal communication skills and physical touch and how they affect the development of the patient-physician relationship. This question was investigated through an analysis of primary literature, followed by interviews with ten physicians to better understand the physician perspective. Current literature describes the significance of general effective communication skills and barriers, along with the role of utilizing physical touch to develop a more trusting relationship with the patient. Furthermore, the physician interviews expanded on the individuality of each patient interaction. This shows the need for social and emotional awareness on the part of the physician, as well as a responsibility to be effective communicators, and the necessity of establishing a patient-oriented delivery of healthcare.
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