Abstract: The aim of this study was to examine interactional styles of general practitioners (GPs) in consultations with Dutch patients as compared to ethnic minority patients, from the perspective of level of mutual understanding between patient and GP. Data of 103 transcripts of video-registered medical interviews were analyzed to assess GPs’ communication styles in terms of involvement, detachment, shared decision-making and patient-centeredness. Surveys were used to collect data on patients’ characteristics and mutual understanding. Results show that overall, GPs communicate less adequately with ethnic minority patients than with Dutch patients; they involve them less in decision-making and check their understanding of what has been discussed less often. Intercultural consultations are thus markedly distinguishable from intracultural consultations by a lack of adequate communicative behavior by GPs. As every patient has a moral and legal right to make informed decisions, it is concluded that GPs should check more often whether their ethnic minority patients have understood what has been said during the medical consultation.
Keywords: Doctor–patient communication, Communication styles, Intercultural communication, Ethnicity, Shared decision-making