Patients and physicians report that discussions about pain are frequently frustrating and unproductive. However, the relationship between discussions about pain and patient-physician communication is poorly understood. We analyzed 133 video-recorded visits and patient self-report data collected at a clinic providing primary care to a low-income, black patient population. We used "thin slice" methods to rate two or three 30-second video segments from each visit on variables related to patient and physician affect (ie, displayed emotion) and patient-physician rapport. Discussions about pain were associated with a.32 increase in patient unease (P <.001) and a.21 increase in patient positive engagement (P =.004; standardized coefficients) compared to discussions about other topics during the same visit. Discussions about pain were not significantly associated with patient-physician rapport, physician unease, or physician positive engagement. Patient pain severity was significantly associated with greater physician and patient unease (P =.01), but not with other variables. Findings suggest that primary care patients, but not their physicians, display significantly greater emotional intensity during discussions about pain compared to discussions about other topics. Perspective: This study used direct observation of video-recorded primary care visits to show that discussions about pain are associated with heightened displays of both positive and negative patient emotions. These displays of emotion could potentially influence pain-related outcomes.
- physician-patient relations
- primary care
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
- Clinical Neurology