Towards a guideline for person-centered research in clinical communication; lessons learned from three countries

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Sandra van Dulmen
Gerry Humphris
Hilde Eide


The delivery of quality health care is dependent to a large degree on the success of the interaction between health care provider and patient. The ability to research this interaction has improved with the development of recording technology, storage and data coding. In addition, familiarity with recording of doctor-patient communication has increased encouraging researchers to embark on developing this data-rich resource. Factors that are pertinent to the collection of this material are outlined from the experience of researchers from three countries: The Netherlands, Norway and the UK. The conclusion stresses the need to attend closely to the issues listed to increase the likelihood of obtaining a research platform for investigating health care encounters in some depth. The article presents a first step in the production of a practical, person-centered guideline for this important research endeavour.

Article Details

Conducting Research on Clinical Communication
Author Biography

Sandra van Dulmen, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL),Utrecht

A.M. (Sandra) studied clinical psychology. After graduation in 1997 (cum laude), she started working as a researcher in different fields of health care, first at the Department of Clinical Psychology, then from 1988-1995, at the Department of General Practice at the University of Nijmegen. She obtained her PhD degree in 1996 with the thesis titled “Exploring cognitions in irritable bowel syndrome; implications for the role of the doctor”. For her thesis she received the dissertation award from the Netherlands School of Primary Care Research (CaRe). From 1995 onwards she works at NIVEL (Netherlands institute for health services research), first as a researcher, since 1999 as the co-ordinator of the research program Communication in Healthcare. In 2001 she was co-founder and since then the secretary of EACH (European Association for Communication in Healthcare). She obtained numerous grants for her communication studies, varying from observational research in general practices and hospitals to intervention studies among medical students, specialists, nurses as well as among patients with minor ailments, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, IBS, or cancer. A core feature of her work is the (video)observation and analysis of the communication in the consulting room between a patient and a health care professional. She collaborates within several international research projects. Currently Sandra van Dulmen supervises seven PhD students. She has published around 50 national and 100 international papers in peer-reviewed journals. A selection of these include:Oerlemans S, Van Cranenburgh O, Herremans P-J, Spreeuwenberg P, Van Dulmen S. Intervening on cognitions and behaviour in irritable bowel syndrome: a feasibility trial using PDAs. J Psychosom Res 2011 (in press)Weert J van, Jansen J, Spreeuwenberg P, Dulmen S van, Bensing J. Effects of a Communication Skills Training to improve Communication with Older Cancer Patients: A Randomized controlled trial . Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology 2011 (in press)Noordman J, Verhaak P, I. van Beljouw I van, Dulmen S van. Discussing patient’s (un)healthy lifestyle in the consulting room: analysis of GP-patient consultations between 1975 and 2008. BMC Fam Pract 2010; 11(1): 87Dulmen S van, Groot J de, Koster D, Heiligers Ph. Why seek complementary medicine? An observational study in homeopathic, acupunctural and naturopathic medical practices. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine 2010; 7: 20Albada A, Dulmen S van, Otten R, Bensing JM, Ausems MGEM. The development of E-info geneca: a computer-tailored intervention prior to breast cancer genetic counselling. J Gen Couns 2009; 18: 326-338Morren M, Dulmen S van, Ouwerkerk J,  Bensing J. Compliance with momentary pain measurement using electronic diaries: A systematic review. Eur J Pain 2009; 13: 354-365Dulmen S van, Tromp F, Grosfeld F, Cate Th J ten, Bensing JM. The impact of assessing simulated bad news consultations on medical students’ stress response and communication performance. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2007;  32: 943–950Zwaanswijk M, Tates K, Dulmen S van, Hoogerbrugge PM, Kamps W, Bensing J. Young patients’, parents’, and survivors’ communication preferences in paediatric oncology: Using online focus groups to develop a structured questionnaire. BMC Pediatrics 2007; 7: 35Dijk L van, Heerdink ER, Somai D, Dulmen AM van, Ridder DT de, Sluijs EM, Griens AMGF, Bensing JM. Patient risk profiles and practice variation in nonadherence to antidepressants, antihypertensives and oral hypoglycemics. BMC Health Serv Res. 2007 Apr 10;7(1):51Dulmen S van, Sluijs E, Dijk L van, Ridder D de, Heerdink R, Bensing J. Patient Adherence to medical treatment: a review of reviews. BMC Health Services Research. BMC Health Services Research 2007, 7:55


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