Can patient-centered communication reduce the effects of medical mistrust on patients’ decision making?

Objective: Mistrust in medical institutions has been implicated as a barrier that disproportionately affects the quality of health care received by patients. Although patient-centered communication has been shown to improve patient-provider relationships, little is known as to whether it may reduce the effects of medical mistrust on patients’ decision-making and trust in physicians (physician mistrust). Method: In a laboratory study, 231 primary care patients (101 African American and 130 White participants) were randomly assigned to one of two conditions in which they viewed video recorded, standardized vignettes depicting a cardiologist recommending coronary bypass surgery to a patient diagnosed with angina and 3-vessel coronary artery disease. In each vignette, the cardiologist-actor demonstrated either low or high patient-centered communication behavior. Participants were asked to assume the role of the patient interacting with the video-recorded physician. Results: Hypotheses were partially supported. High levels of medical mistrust were associated with greater physician mistrust and lesser endorsement of the hypothetical bypass surgery. Among patients exposed to high patient-centered communication, the relationships between medical mistrust and both physician mistrust and surgery endorsement were weaker than among patients exposed to low patient-centered communication. Although African American patients reported greater medical mistrust compared with White patients, respondents’ race did not moderate the relationships. Conclusions: Results suggest that mistrust toward health care may unfavorably affect interactions and patients’ health-related outcomes. Physicians may buffer the effects of mistrust by using patient-centered communication skills such as soliciting the patient’s concerns and priorities and being responsive to the health care needs which patients identify (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)