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Affective communication with patients with limited health literacy in the palliative phase of COPD or lung cancer: analysis of video-recorded consultations in outpatient care.

Otte, R., Roodbeen, R., Boland, G., Noordman, J., Dulmen, S. van. Affective communication with patients with limited health literacy in the palliative phase of COPD or lung cancer: analysis of video-recorded consultations in outpatient care. PLoS One: 2022, 17(2), Art. nr. e0263433
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Objectives
Affective communication in outpatient care is important, especially in the palliative phase. Appropriate responses by healthcare providers to emotional cues or concerns let patients express their feelings and enhance information recall and patient satisfaction. Patients with limited health literacy experience more barriers in health-related communication and information, which makes recognizing their cues and concerns even more relevant. This study explores emotional cues/concerns expressed by patients with limited health literacy and evaluates healthcare providers’ responses to these utterances.

Methods
Verona Coding Definitions of Emotional Sequences (VR-CoDES), a consensus-based system for coding patients’ expression of emotional distress in medical consultations, was used in this exploratory observational study to analyse affective communication in video-recorded outpatient consultations. Consultations of 18 (10 female, 8 male) COPD or lung cancer patients (aged 70.3±6.8) with limited health literacy were recorded and analysed. Eight healthcare providers in four hospitals participated in the study.

Results
101 cues and 11 concerns were observed, making 6.2 (SD = 4.2) cues or concerns per consultation. Healthcare provider responses were explicit in 56% and left scope for further disclosures in 58% of the cases. Patients with limited health literacy seem to express more cues or concerns than other patient populations. Healthcare providers responded roughly equally often in five different ways, but they shied away from further exploring the emotion disclosed in the cue/concern. Future research should elaborate on these exploratory observations, especially regarding why HCPs often only leave limited space for further disclosure of emotions in palliative care.