Diagnostic communication in the memory clinic: a conversation analytic perspective
journal contributionposted on 21.04.2016, 12:44 by Elizabeth Peel
Objectives: Whether and how patients should be told their dementia diagnosis, has been an area of much debate. While there is now recognition that early diagnosis is important for dementia care little research has looked at how dementiarelated diagnostic information is actually verbally communicated. The limited previous research suggests that the absence of explicit terminology (e.g., use of the term Alzheimer’s) is problematic. This paper interrogates this assumption through a conversation analysis of British naturalistic memory clinic interaction. Method: This paper is based on video-recordings of communication within a UK memory clinic. Appointments with 29 patients and accompanying persons were recorded, and the corpus was repeatedly listened to, in conjunction with the transcripts in order to identify the segments of talk where there was an action hearable as diagnostic delivery, that is where the clinician is evaluating the patient’s condition. Results: Using a conversation analytic approach this analysis suggests that diagnostic communication, which is sensitive and responsive to the patient and their carers, is not predicated on the presence or absence of particular lexical choices. There is inherent complexity regarding dementia diagnosis, especially in the ‘early stages’, which is produced through and reflected in diagnostic talk in clinical encounters. Conclusion: In the context of continuity of dementia care, diagnostic information is communicated in a way that conforms to intersubjective norms of minimizing catastrophic reactions in medical communication, and is sensitive to problems associated with ‘insight’ in terms of delivery and receipt or non-receipt of diagnosis.
This research was supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship [MC110142].
- Social Sciences
- Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies