Latest Issue: Vol 10, No 3 (2013) RSS2 logo

Communication & Medicine

Editor Srikant Sarangi Aalborg University, Denmark

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Since its inception in 2004, Communication & Medicine has been consistently interrogating the `black box’ of what is routinely characterised as `the communicative turn’ in healthcare practice in clinical and public health domains. It is now firmly established as a leading forum for these critical debates.

Aims and Scope
Communication & Medicine continues to abide by the following distinctive aims:

• To consolidate different traditions of discourse and communication research in its commitment to an understanding of psychosocial, cultural and ethical aspects of healthcare in contemporary societies.

• To cover the different specialities within medicine and allied healthcare studies.

• To underscore the significance of specific areas and themes by bringing out special issues from time to time.

• To be fully committed to publishing evidence-based, data-driven original studies with practical application and relevance as key guiding principles.

• To be targeted at an interdisciplinary audience, which will include healthcare professionals and researchers and students in the medical, social and human sciences.

• To promote a reader-friendly style and format, including engagements with debates and dialogues on crosscutting themes of topical significance.

The editor is supported by an internationally acclaimed, interdisciplinary advisory board, selectively drawn to represent the well-established traditions of the medical, social and human sciences.

Indexing and Abstracting
Bibliography of Linguistic Literature/Bibliographie Linguistischer Literature (BLL)
EBSCO Communicatioin and Mass Media Index
EBSCO Current Abstracts
IBZ International Bibliography of Periodical Literature in the Humanities and Social Sciences
IBR International Bilbiography of Book Reviews of Scholary Literature in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Linguistics and Language Behaviour Abstracts
OCLC Electronic Collections Online
Proquest Academic Research Library
Proquest Central
Proquest Health & Medical Complete
Proquest Health Management
ProQuest Medical Library
ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source

Publication and Frequency: 3 issues per year from 2011 (volume 8)
ISSN: 1612-1783 (print)
ISSN: 1613-3625 (online)

Professor Srikant Sarangi
Health Communication Research Centre
Cardiff University
Humanities Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff CF10 3EU (UK)
Notice Regarding Volumes 1-4
For print copies of Volumes 1-4 as well as online access for those issues please contact the former publisher, Mouton De Gruyter.

Most Recent Articles


Causal accounts as a consequential device in categorizing mental health and substance abuse problems

Professionals in human service work are at the centre of complicated client cases. The ways client cases are constructed and the problems explained form the basis for professionals’ assessments, decisions, actions and interventions. In this article the ways professionals make sense of dual-diagnosis client cases are examined. Applying the concept of causal accounting, it is argued that ‘theories of cause’ are embedded in professional discourse and profoundly shape professionals’ understandings of social and health problems, as well as of their own roles and responsibilities and of what interventions and outcomes are possible. The data consist of 48 tape-recorded weekly team meetings among professionals in a supported housing unit targeted for clients with both mental health and substance abuse problems. It was found that professionals reason about the relationship between these two problems in four different ways: (1) substance abuse causes or makes mental health problems worse; (2) substance abuse eases mental health problems; (3) mental health problems cause or make substance abuse worse; or (4) good mental health reduces substance abuse. Causal account research makes visible the ways professionals do institutional work by categorizing clients, accounting for responsibilities as well as assessing their work and clients’ achievements according to moral expectations of a ‘good’ professional and a worthy client.
Posted: 2014-05-22More...

Communicative practices in talking about death and dying in the context of Thai cancer care

This article explores communicative practices surrounding how nurses, patients and family members engage when talking about death and dying, based on study conducted in a province in northern Thailand. Data were collected from three environments: a district hospital (nine cases), district public health centres (four cases), and in patients’ homes (27 cases). Fourteen nurses, 40 patients and 24 family members gave written consent for participation. Direct observation and in-depth interviews were used for supplementary data collection, and 40 counselling sessions were recorded on video. The raw data were analysed using Conversation Analysis. The study found that Thai counselling is asymmetrical. Nurses initiated the topic of death by referring to the death of a third person – a dead patient – with the use of clues and via list-construction. As most Thai people are oriented to Buddhism, religious support is selected for discussing this sensitive topic, and nurses also use Buddhism and list-construction to help their clients confront uncertain futures. However, Buddhism is not brought into discussion on its own, but combined with other techniques such as the use of euphemisms or concern and care for others.
Posted: 2014-05-22More...

‘I’m an expert in me and I know what I can cope with’: Patient expertise in rheumatoid arthritis

The active involvement of patients in decision-making and the focus on patient expertise in managing chronic illness constitutes a priority in many healthcare systems including the NHS in the UK. With easier access to health information, patients are almost expected to be (or present self) as an ‘expert patient’ (Ziebland 2004). This paper draws on the meta-analysis of interview data collected for identifying treatment outcomes important to patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Taking a discourse approach to identity, the discussion focuses on the resources used in the negotiation and co-construction of expert identities, including domain-specific knowledge, access to institutional resources, and ability to self-manage. The analysis shows that expertise is both projected (institutionally sanctioned) and claimed by the patient (self-defined). We close the paper by highlighting the limitations of our pilot study and suggest avenues for further research.
Posted: 2014-05-22More...

Language issues: An important professional practice dimension for Australian International Medical Graduates

Issues associated with speech and language have been noted in the international literature as an important aspect of the process of integration for Australian International Medical Graduates (IMGs). This paper makes a contribution through the presentation of a sub-set of findings on the factors associated with speech and language practices for IMGs, taken from a qualitative study which examined the IMGs’ experience of integration into the Australian healthcare system. A purposive sample of 30 IMGs were interviewed via telephone. Participants were asked to share their experience with communicating in English with patients and other health professionals in the context of the Australian healthcare system. The taped interviews were transcribed verbatim and then coded and thematically analysed. The findings indicate that the months following the point of entry into a medical position are a critical time for the majority of IMGs in terms of difficulties with communicating in English. A range of suggestions to improve speech and language skills for IMGs is provided. The findings emphasize the importance of speech and language skills and the serious implications of this issue for the clinical practice of IMGs.
Posted: 2014-01-02More...

On the limits of genetic responsibility: Communication and consent for tumour testing for Lynch syndrome

Testing cancers for mismatch repair (MMR) gene defects assists selection of families for genetic testing for cancer predisposing Lynch syndrome. Performing MMR tumour testing without consent is debated, though little empirical work has been undertaken. We address this by examining the significance of testing for those who have consented without prior genetic counselling, particularly their ‘accounts’ of testing via displays of knowledge and responsibility. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants recruited from a UK genetics service. Participants had difficulties in formulating the benefits of testing when consent was facilitated by a relative or by mail. Discourse analysis revealed that in the absence of specific or accurate understandings of tumour testing, participants displayed responsibility towards themselves and others by generalising and diminishing the implications of testing. Within the framework of ‘genetic responsibility’, MMR tumour testing seems less important in participants’ accounts compared to more definitive genetic testing. If facilitating genetic knowledge and responsibility are goals of genetic testing then developing appropriate consent procedures for MMR tumour testing is an important consideration. Further research is required to differentiate whether genetic counselling is a precondition for enacting genetic responsibility or whether intrinsic differences between types of testing make the concept less relevant.
Posted: 2014-01-02More...

Most Viewed Articles


The use of abbreviations in medical records in a multidisciplinary world -- an imminent disaster

Abbreviations are commonly used in the medical world to save time and space whilst writing in the patients’ medical records. As various specialties have evolved, each has developed a collection of commonly used abbreviations within its practice, which may not be recognizable to those not working within the same field. The purpose of this study was to assess whether we, the multidisciplinary team members, correctly interpret the abbreviations used in the medical records. We analysed one week of orthopaedic surgical medical records for the use of abbreviations and assessed their appreciation by other members of the multidisciplinary team by means of a standardized questionnaire. We found great variability in the understanding of these abbreviations by different groups of health care professionals. As expected, the orthopaedic surgeons produced significantly more right answers when compared to the other groups, but even they could correctly interpret just over half (57.24 per cent) of the abbreviations. There were many misinterpretations of the abbreviations across the specialties posing imminent clinical risk. Whilst abbreviations may indeed save time, the observed inter-group variation in correct interpretation of these abbreviations is unacceptable. We recommend that the abbreviations have no place in the multidisciplinary world and their continued use will only lead to eventual clinical error.
Posted: 2008-11-25More...

Laughter, communication problems and dementia

This article investigates how the elderly with dementia and their professional caregivers use laughter as a device to deal with problems related to language production and comprehension. The data consist of two game-playing situations, used to engage the elderly people in memory work. The article shows how the elderly patients recurrently laugh to acknowledge communication difficulties and to show awareness of their potential non-competency. The professional caregivers are shown to use slightly different strategies for responding to laughter segments initiated by the patients, either making the shortcomings part of the conversation or avoiding referring to the lapse explicitly. The laughter strategies used by the patients are compared to those reported in the CA-literature on laughter. It is well known that laughter is used in sequences of trouble and delicacy in both ordinary and institutional contexts, but my study shows that speakers with dementia laugh when they encounter problems related to language production and comprehension. This functional expansion in relation to premorbid occurrence is evidence that laughter fits the definition of compensatory behaviour utilized to overcome communication barriers. Certain conversational skills are preserved in individuals with dementia, but due to their cognitive impairment these resources are utilized in a slightly different way than by healthy speakers.
Posted: 2008-11-25More...

The negotiation of the problem statement in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy which is characterized by being highly structured, outcomes focused and time limited. The literature concerning CBT is extensive but it has primarily focused on the outcomes of therapy with limited qualitative studies investigating the process of CBT. In this present study we investigate how the CBT model is implemented in therapeutic interaction through a focus on the conversion of the client’s problem into CBT terms and its ultimate articulation as the problem statement. The problem statement is an integral part of the form of CBT studied from which the subsequent therapy is derived. Drawing on theme-oriented discourse analysis we examine the first two sessions of the treatment of one client using a number of tools derived from discourse and conversation analysis. This case study was drawn from a larger corpus of the CBT treatment of ten clients. The expertise of the therapist in applying the generic CBT model of therapy to the client’s particular problem is a focus of this study.
Posted: 2010-10-22More...

Establishing mutual understanding in interaction: An analysis of conversational repair in psychiatric consultations

The therapeutic relationship is the greatest predictor of treatment outcome, yet its relationship to communication is largely unevaluated. This study explored how psychiatrists and people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia establish mutual understanding in naturalistic communication, and associations with the therapeutic relationship, patient satisfaction and symptoms. In conversation analysis, the concept of repair focuses on how participants in interaction create mutual understanding and address misunderstanding. A standardized protocol measuring the frequency of repair was applied to 15 outpatient consultations. Correlations between repair and the therapeutic relationship, patients’ experience of the consultation and symptoms were explored. Patients made most effort to make their contribution understandable, whereas psychiatrists made most effort to repair misunderstandings. The more positively psychiatrists rated the relationship, the more effort they made to understand patients. Although psychiatrists’ efforts were not associated with patients’ overall view of the relationship, patients felt better emotionally, despite, feeling less understood. Psychiatrists used fewer repairs when patients were more symptomatic. Both parties prioritized understanding similar topics but psychiatrists focused more on medication and patients on voices. Quantifying repair offers a new way of analyzing how mutual understanding is established in interaction, and links communication processes with treatment outcomes.
Posted: 2010-01-16More...

Moral accounts and membership categorization in primary care medical interviews

Although the link between health and morality has been well established, few studies have examined how issues of morality emerge and are addressed in primary care medical encounters. This paper addresses the need to examine morality as it is (re)constructed in everyday health care interactions. A Membership Categorisation Analysis of 96 medical interviews reveals how patients orient to particular membership categories and distance themselves from others as a means of accounting (Buttny 1993; Scott and Lyman 1968) for morally questionable health behaviours. More specifically, this paper examines how patients use membership categorisations in order to achieve specific social identity(ies) (Schubert et al. 2009) through two primary strategies: defensive detailing and prioritizing alternative membership categories. Thus, this analysis tracks the emergence of cultural and moral knowledge about social life as it takes place in primary care medical encounters.
Posted: 2012-02-24More...


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