Are you talking to me?! An exploration of the triadic physician-patient-companion communication within memory clinics encounters

Orit Karnieli-Miller, Perla Werner, Galit Neufeld-Kroszynski, Shmuel Eidelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To explore and gain further insight into the nature of the triadic interaction among patients, companions and physicians in first-time diagnostic disclosure encounters of Alzheimer's disease in memory-clinic visits. Methods: Twenty-five real-time observations of actual triadic encounters by six different physicians were analyzed. The analysis was accomplished through an innovative combination of grounded theory text analysis and graphics to illustrate the communicational exchanges. Results: The "triadic" communication was actually a series of alternating dyadic exchanges where the third person tries, with inconsistent degrees of success, to become actively involved. During the initial introduction (phase 1) and summation/disclosure (phase 3), the core dyad shifts from physician-patient to physician-companion. Conclusion: The focus of communication shifts within these encounters: from talking with the patient to talking about him or ignoring him. These shifts may signify an emotionally loaded role transformation from companion to caregiver. Practice implications: Effective and empathic management of a triadic communication that avoids unnecessary interruptions and frustrations requires specific communication skills (e.g., explaining the rules and order of the conversation). Professionals need to facilitate the emotionally difficult shift from companion to caregiver and the adjustment of companion and demented patient to this shift.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-390
Number of pages10
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this project was provided by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) grant number 371/08 .


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Breaking bad news
  • Dementia
  • Triad communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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