Hispanics with HIV have different communication styles with their health care providers than whites

Research Activities, June 2011, No. 370

One aspect of the medical encounter with health care providers is interpersonal communication during the visit. This is particularly important in HIV care, where discussions about treatment are often complex and personalized. Hispanic patients with limited English proficiency are expected to have communication barriers. However, a new study finds that even Hispanics who speak English well have different communication styles than white patients.

The researchers found significantly less patient-centered communication during encounters between Hispanic patients and their doctors compared with white patients. Specifically, Hispanic patients, regardless of their English proficiency, tended to engage in less psychosocial talk with their providers. However, despite these differences in communication styles, Hispanic patients rated their providers' communication higher than white patients. In light of their findings, the researchers suggest that health care providers make every effort to ensure that psychosocial issues are addressed during encounters with all patients.

For the study, they recruited 19 HIV providers and 113 patients seen by them at two sites in New York City and Portland. The patient group consisted of 58 Hispanics and 55 whites. Patient-provider encounters were recorded in examination rooms and later analyzed to determine how well the patient communicated with their provider. This included whether they asked questions, engaged in information exchange, and participated in emotional talk, including positive and negative talk and social chit-chat—areas where the researchers found no significant differences. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (Contract No. 290-01-0012).

See "Differences in patient-provider communication for Hispanic compared to non-Hispanic white patients in HIV care," by Mary Catherine Beach, M.D., M.P.H., Somnath Saha, M.D., M.P.H., P. Todd Korthuis, M.D., and others in the Journal of General Internal Medicine 25(7), pp. 682-687, 2010.

Current as of June 2011
Internet Citation: Hispanics with HIV have different communication styles with their health care providers than whites: Research Activities, June 2011, No. 370. June 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jun11/0611RA5.html