An Evidence-Based Perspective on Greetings in Medical Encounters

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States
Archives of Internal Medicine (Impact Factor: 17.33). 07/2007; 167(11):1172-6. DOI: 10.1001/archinte.167.11.1172
Source: PubMed


Widely used models for teaching and assessing communication skills highlight the importance of greeting patients appropriately, but there is little evidence regarding what constitutes an appropriate greeting.
To obtain data on patient expectations for greetings, we asked closed-ended questions about preferences for shaking hands, use of patient names, and use of physician names in a computer-assisted telephone survey of adults in the 48 contiguous United States. We also analyzed an existing sample of 123 videotaped new patient visits to characterize patterns of greeting behavior in everyday clinical practice.
Most (78.1%) of the 415 survey respondents reported that they want the physician to shake their hand, 50.4% want their first name to be used when physicians greet them, and 56.4% want physicians to introduce themselves using their first and last names; these expectations vary somewhat with patient sex, age, and race. Videotapes revealed that physicians and patients shook hands in 82.9% of visits. In 50.4% of the initial encounters, physicians did not mention the patient's name at all. Physicians tended to use their first and last names when introducing themselves.
Physicians should be encouraged to shake hands with patients but remain sensitive to nonverbal cues that might indicate whether patients are open to this behavior. Given the diversity of opinion regarding the use of names, coupled with national patient safety recommendations concerning patient identification, we suggest that physicians initially use patients' first and last names and introduce themselves using their own first and last names.

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Available from: Marianne Green, Dec 21, 2015
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    • "People use greetings to acknowledge and quickly negotiate 'who is who to whom'. In healthcare, patient-provider greetings mark the start of the visit (Robinson 1998), and are critical in establishing rapport and making patients and their family members feel comfortable (Amer and Fisher 2009; Makoul et al. 2007). Following the greetings, the provider ordinarily initiates the problem presentation (Robinson 2006, Heritage and Maynard 2006a, b) by asking a question, often accompanied by eye gaze and body orientation, that selects the next speaker who could be the child (O:kay:. "
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    • "We have arguably highlighted in this paper that there is a significant relationship between salutations and health/welfare issues. For instance, in a study carried out by physicians in the United states, Makoul et al. (2007,p.1174) had stressed that 'while greetings may rather seem a mundane aspect of physician-patient communication, attention to this task can set a positive for the encounter and increase chances of developing a therapeutic clinical relationship'. This study agrees with Machino (2014) that these question-oriented salutations are illocutionary (intent driven). "
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    ABSTRACT: Health concerns among Nigerians may have given rise to a covert and an implicit relationship with salutations/greetings. Health has been defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity. This is reflected in the traditional normative salutations that one receives or gives when one comes in contact with relatives, neighbors or friends. Instead of the contemporary greetings like good morning, etc., the person is greeted with questions such as: How do you do? How was your night? Is this linked with the health system or fear of the unknown? The reply to any of these questions is often multifaceted and reflects a concern with the physical, mental or social well-being of the individual(s) or groups concerned. This paper examined the 21st century culture of salutations in some selected communities in south eastern Nigeria with the aim of identifying the relationship between salutation and health. Qualitative method of data collection was used to gather information from the communities. Analysis was done using the descriptive method. Results showed a close relationship between salutation and health issues. It also showed that in spite of the fact that modernization has eroded most of our cultural values, the communalist values of the Igbo people are still cherished.
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