Intercultural doctor-patient communication in daily outpatient care: relevant communication skills

Emma Paternotte*, Fedde Scheele, Conny M. Seeleman, Lindsay Bank, Albert Scherpbier, Sandra van Dulmen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction Intercultural communication (ICC) between doctors and patients is often associated with misunderstandings and dissatisfaction. To develop ICC-specific medical education, it is important to find out which ICC skills medical specialists currently apply in daily clinical consultations.

Methods Doctor-patient consultations of Dutch doctors with non-Dutch patients were videotaped in a multi-ethnic hospital in the Netherlands. The consultations were analyzed using the validated MAAS-Global assessment list in combination with factors influencing ICC, as described in the literature.

Results In total, 39 videotaped consultations were analyzed. The doctors proved to be capable of practising many communication skills, such as listening and empathic communication behaviour. Other skills were not practised, such as being culturally aware and checking the patient's language ability.

Conclusion We showed that doctors did practice some but not all the relevant ICC skills and that the ICC style of the doctors was mainly biomedically centred. Furthermore, we discussed the possible overlap between intercultural and patient-centred communication. Implications for practice could be to implement the relevant ICC skills in the existing communication training or develop a communication training with a patient-centred approach including ICC skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268–275
Number of pages8
JournalPerspectives on Medical Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Doctor-patient communication
  • Intercultural communication
  • Communication skills
  • Clinical practice
  • Reflective practice
  • Communication behaviour
  • Medical education

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