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The impact of conflicting health conceptions on information processing and doctor-patient communication

Working groupKnowledge Construction Lab
Duration01/2013 - 12/2016
FundingLeibniz-WissenschaftsCampus Tübingen
Project description

There are various informational environments where medical laypeople and experts deal with medical information. Besides the personal communication between physician and patient the search for medical information on the Internet is widely used. With the help of web 2.0 technologies, like online forums, everyone may participate actively in the construction of health-related knowledge. This altered informational environment affects the physician-patient-communication.

The social construction of knowledge comprises great potential as well as great challenges for learning and for a successful communication of medical information. Each person introduces a unique set of knowledge, experiences, and beliefs into a communication situation. This goes along with inconsistencies. Within the scope of this research project, the aim was to focus on the impact of inconsistencies on the reception and production of medical information. An important source of inconsistencies is the health concept of physicians and patients. By carrying out both experimental laboratory and field studies we investigated, whether people process medical information differently when it was given in the context of a similar or dissimilar health concept. Furthermore, we examined how medical experts are influenced by their own health concept and how they communicate with patients who have differing health concepts or deviating medical information. So far, the impact of inconsistent health concepts on the reception and production of medical information was shown in a number of studies. It was found, inter alia, that medical information that was consistent with a person’s health concept was better learned and was considered to be more relevant than medical information that was presented in an inconsistent health concept.

Furthermore, in cooperation with the Competence Centre for University Teaching in Medicine we developed a didactical setting in which medical students learn how they may organize communication in a way that it helps patients understand medical information. Finally, in cooperation with the “ulmkolleg” (teaching institution for physiotherapy) we developed and implemented an educational setting to foster intra-professional information exchange.


Competence Centre for University Teaching in Medicine

ulmkolleg (teaching institution for physiotherapy)


Bientzle, M., Cress, U., & Kimmerle, J. (2014). Epistemological beliefs and therapeutic health concepts of physiotherapy students and professionals. BMC Medical Education, 14, 208.

Bientzle, M., Cress, U., & Kimmerle, J. (2013). How students deal with inconsistencies in health knowledge. Medical Education, 47, 683-690.

Bientzle, M., Griewatz, J., Kimmerle, J., Küppers, J., Cress, U., & Lammerding-Koeppel, M. (2015). Impact of scientific versus emotional wording of patient questions on doctor-patient communication in an Internet forum: A randomized controlled experiment with medical students. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 17, e268. doi:10.2196/jmir.4597 full text

Griewatz, J., Lammerding-Koeppel, M., Bientzle, M., Cress, U., & Kimmerle, J. (2016). Using simulated forums for training of online patient counselling. Medical Education, 50, 576-577. doi:10.1111/medu.13040.