Patient-centred communication in British, Italian and Spanish ‘Ask-the-Expert’ healthcare websites

Authors

  • Gabrina Pounds University of East Anglia
  • Carlos De Pablos-Ortega University of East Anglia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.27231

Keywords:

advice, ‘Ask-the-Expert’ healthcare websites, discourse analysis, empathy, patient-centred communication, pragmatics

Abstract

Existing studies on the online asynchronous consultation mode afforded by ‘Ask-the-Expert’ health websites (e.g. Thomson et al. 2012) are concerned with the possible loss in the quality of interaction between patients and clinicians in this type of consultation. The potential loss is worrying, given the central role of patient-centred communication (PCC), particularly empathy, in medical consultation practice and patients’ increasing use of and reliance on online consultations. This study addresses the following three related questions: (1) To what extent is PCC represented in ‘Ask-the-Expert’ healthcare websites? (2) Are there noticeable differences in PCC between sites operating in different linguistic and cultural settings (the UK, Spain and Italy)? (3) What are the implications of the above? Seventy exchanges from the leading independent health websites NetDoctor (UK), Netdoctor (Spain) and Medicitalia (Italy) were analysed, adapting a framework developed for the linguistic analysis of clinical empathy (combining discourse analytical and pragmatic categories – Pounds 2011) and drawing on existing definitions of PCC and classifications of advice-giving structures. The analysis shows that PCC is used on these sites to varying degrees, conforming to the site’s affordances. The significance of the findings and potential further applications of the analytical framework are discussed in the final part.

Author Biographies

Gabrina Pounds, University of East Anglia

Gabrina Pounds is Senior Lecturer of Applied Linguistics at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. Her research interests include attitudinal expression, subjectivity and emotion in news discourse, and expression of empathy and patient-centeredness in medical consultations and other professional exchanges (particularly in English-speaking and Italian cultural contexts).

Carlos De Pablos-Ortega, University of East Anglia

Carlos De Pablos-Ortega is Senior Lecturer in Spanish, Linguistics and Translation at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. His research interests include contrastive pragmatics, politeness, linguistic attitudes and audio-visual translation (subtitling) from a pragmatic viewpoint.

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Published

2016-11-07

How to Cite

Pounds, G., & De Pablos-Ortega, C. (2016). Patient-centred communication in British, Italian and Spanish ‘Ask-the-Expert’ healthcare websites. Communication and Medicine, 12(2-3), 225–241. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.27231