The quality of physician-patient communication is a critical factor in treatment outcomes and patient satisfaction with care. To date, few studies have specifically conducted an in-depth evaluation of the effect of telemedicine (TM) on physician-patient communication in a medical setting. Our objective was to determine whether physical separation and technology used during TM have a negative effect on physician-patient communication. In this noninferiority randomized clinical trial, patients were randomized to receive a single consultation with one of 9 physicians, either in person (IP) or via TM. Patients (n = 221) were recruited from pulmonary, endocrine, and rheumatology clinics at a Midwestern Veterans Administration hospital. Physician-patient communication was measured using a validated self-report questionnaire consisting of 33 items measuring satisfaction with visit convenience and physician's patient-centered communication, clinical competence, and interpersonal skills. Satisfaction for physician's patient-centered communication was similar for both consultation types (TM = 3.76 versus IP = 3.61), and noninferiority of TM was confirmed (noninferiority t-test p = 0.002). Patient satisfaction with physician's clinical competence (TM = 4.63 versus IP = 4.52) and physician's interpersonal skills (TM = 4.79 versus IP = 4.74) were similar, and noninferiority of TM was confirmed (noninferiority t-test p = 0.006 and p = 0.04, respectively). Patients reported greater satisfaction with convenience for TM as compared to IP consultations (TM = 4.41 versus IP = 2.37, noninferiority t-test p < 0.001). Patients were equally satisfied with physician's ability to develop rapport, use shared decision making, and promote patient-centered communication during TM and IP consultations. Our data suggest that, despite physical separation, physician-patient communication during TM is not inferior to communication during IP consultations.
- Patient satisfaction
- Physician-patient communication
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Informatics
- Health Information Management