Every patient is UNIQUE. Reason being:

  • Patients are people and they are all different.
  • The same words will often mean different things to different people.
  • What works for one patient probably would not work for another.

Health Belief Model is a well researched description of patients’ beliefs about health and related matters. It has following elements:

          Health Motivation: It is about personal interest in their conditions and the readiness & motivation to bring change in their conditions.
Health motivated patients expect to be considered as partners by their healthcare providers in the medical decision process. They show greater
willingness to exercise accountability and responsibility for their own health care.

         Perceived Vulnerability: This relates to the degree to which they believe in the diagnosis and its possible consequences.
These patients do not adhere to the proposed management plan until and unless they are convinced with the diagnosis made. It is based on their
perceived thinking about their condition. Such patients need to be managed by the counseling ability of the medical practitioner.

         Perceived Seriousness: Patients vary in their beliefs about the consequences of contracting any illness or leaving it untreated.
Such patients either are too anxious about getting a disease. (Eg: Even minor skin blemished can be related to be skin cancer by them) or could be
non-serious about their health like a girl smoking at a young age having least concern about the harmful effects in her later years. This class of
patients requires a paternalistic attitude by their physicians.

        Perceived risk & benefits: Patients weigh up advantages and disadvantages of taking any particular course of action.
Here the patient would prevent himself to comply with the treatment because in his own mind the risk of treatment outweighs the benefits. Eg:
The patient does not want to continue with the insulin therapy prescribed to him assuming it to be leading to drug dependence.

The physician would need to engage this group of patients with a positive conversation explaining them the need of the treatment plan. They would also need to council them so that they can continue with the prescribed regimen without self created notions.

Therefore, the patients require different communication styles depending on their belief system which in turn are based on race, culture, religion or society. The doctor would have to explore the patient’s agenda and talk about what matters the most to them. This would help to understand them better.

Patient – Physician Communication is thus tailored to the patient concerns, feelings and expectations.

Adapted from: The Doctor’s Communication Handbook by Peter Tate, 6th edition, 2010.