Comparing doctor–elderly patient communication between traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine encounters: Data from China


  • Ying Jin Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Dennis Tay Hong Kong Polytechnic University



elderly patients, lifestyle and psychosocial topics, RIAS, traditional Chinese Medicine, western medicine


Effective doctor–patient communication has been widely endorsed as pivotal for optimal medical care and the building of a positive and lasting relationship between caregivers and patients. While the literature suggests that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctors have better interpersonal skills than Western medicine (WM) doctors, and that the doctor–patient relationship in TCM is more lasting, a comparison of specific communication behaviors in both encounters has not yet been carried out. This paper examines the similarities and differences in communication behaviors between these two types of consultations in relation to doctor–elderly patient communication. Forty-five consultations were included for analysis using the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS). Significant differences were found in communication behaviors at the level of lifestyle and psychosocial exchanges, type of questions, non-medical small talk, and emotional disclosure. The study’s limitations and implications are discussed.

Author Biographies

Ying Jin, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Ying Jin is currently a PhD candidate at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her main research interest is in doctor–patient communication.

Dennis Tay, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Dennis Tay is Associate Professor at the Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is a cognitive linguist and discourse analyst, and has been researching the linguistic and discursive characteristics of psychotherapeutic metaphors in different cultural contexts including the United States, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and China.


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How to Cite

Jin, Y., & Tay, D. (2018). Comparing doctor–elderly patient communication between traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine encounters: Data from China. Communication and Medicine, 14(2), 121–134.