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Perspectives of Individuals With Aphasia, Their Family Members, and Physicians Regarding Communication in Medical Interactions (Burns et al., 2015)

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journal contribution
posted on 01.08.2015, 00:00 by Michael Burns, Carolyn Baylor, Brian J. Dudgeon, Helene Starks, Kathryn Yorkston
Purpose The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of patients with aphasia, their family members, and physicians related to communication during medical interactions.
Method Face-to-face, semistructured interviews were conducted with 18 participants—6 patients with aphasia, 6 family members involved in patient care, and 6 practicing physicians. A qualitative description approach was used to collect and summarize narratives from participants' perspectives and experiences. Participants were asked about experiences with communication during medical interactions in which the family member accompanied the patient. Interviews were audio- and/or video-recorded, transcribed, and then coded to identify main themes. Results Patients and family members generally described their communication experiences as positive, yet all participants discussed challenges and frustrations. Three themes emerged: (a) patients and family members work as a team, (b) patients and family members want physicians to "just try" to communicate with the patient, and (c) physicians want to interact with patients but may not know how.
Conclusions Participants discussed the need for successful accommodation, or changing how one communicates, to help facilitate the patients' increased understanding and ability to express themselves. Over- and underaccommodation with communication were commonly reported as problems. Speech-language pathologists have a role to play in helping to improve communication during medical interactions. Implications for current speech-language pathologist practice and future directions of research are discussed.


We thank the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation and the Walter C. and Anita C. Stolov Research Fund in providing financial support for this research (awarded to the first author, Michael Burns). This project would not have been possible if not for the generosity of these sponsors.