The Relationship between Doctor and Patient. An Intercultural Comparison


  • Carel Jacobs Hofstede Insights Group, Netherlands
  • Huib Wursten Hofstede Insights Group, Netherlands



doctor-patient relationship, culture, power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation


Doctors and patients are driven by the culture they are coming from. As a result the interaction between doctor and patients is highly sensitive to culture and will influence the necessary trust from the side of the patient. Authors describe the interaction doctor-patient by analyzing five dimensions of culture as found by professor Geert Hofstede. Hofstede carried out world- wide research into the dominant values of countries and the way they influence behavior in families, school, work and organizations. He measured the differences between countries and calculated the scores on each dimension in a range from 0-100. Authors found that in countries with a high score on hierarchy the consult is short, the doctor is informing the patient about his conclusions. In countries with a low score on this dimension the doctor tends to listen more to the patient. In highly individualistic countries the doctor comes direct to the point, as in countries with a low score the doctor tries to build up a relationship before starting the consultation. I highly masculine countries the patient expects the doctor to fulfill his role as an effective professional. In strong uncertainty-avoidance countries doctors emphasize their expert profile. In high scoring countries on long term orientation a combination of formal and alternative treatments by the doctor is possible. Authors end up with suggestions for an effective intercultural doctor-patient relationship.