Health Care Provider Role

The basic concepts of treating patients with respect, compassion, and honesty are still what are most important to patients, regardless of cultural/ethnic background. A better understanding of a person’s cultural beliefs can improve patient compliance and the relationship.

There may be a conflict with Western concept of patient-physician relationship of partnership vs. the doctor as authority. Patients may hesitate to make direct eye contact, may hesitate to ask questions or voice opinions so as not to inconvenience others or appear disrespectful.

Physicians are expected to make decisions and give instructions. They must be viewed as trustworthy, caring and willing to help. To put the elder patient at ease, it is important to take a little time to “talk story” before beginning the clinical interview, to address patients with respect (Mr. or Mrs.), and to try to pronounce names correctly. It is appropriate to ask the patient how to pronounce his/her name. (Elliot, Di Minno, Lam, & Mei , 1996)

Some older adults may feel uncomfortable with physical contact during conversations. Health care providers must be aware of their own stereotypes toward the Chinese and degree of acculturation of their patients.