The aim of this study is to characterize the effects of specific clinician nonverbal behaviors on patient nonverbal interaction and perceptions of clinicians. A randomized controlled trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of clinician training on improving patient perceptions of the clinical visit. Two hundred and seventy one patients saw clinicians that they had no prior relationship with for cold symptoms. The clinicians were trained to interact with patients in either “standard” (type A) or “enhanced” (type B) mode as expressly defined by this study. They were randomly assigned to interact with the patient in one of these two conditions. In the enhanced condition, clinicians made efforts to create rapport by patient-oriented talk and positive nonverbal behaviors such as making eye contact. The encounters were videotaped and the nonverbal interactions were analyzed. The results of this study show that the training of enhanced behaviors was successful in increasing the clinicians’ amount of specific positive nonverbal behaviors in the encounter. Additionally, when clinicians engaged in certain culturally recommended rapportbuilding nonverbal interactions such as, but not limited to, eye contact, they were able to positively influence patient nonverbal behaviors and patient perceptions of clinicians. Results of this study could be used to develop training for physicians and to determine how technologies should be designed to facilitate positive interpersonal interactions in health encounters. If eye contact is important to rapportbuilding and ultimately to improved health outcomes, then technologies should support and not impede such nonverbal cues.
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