Meeting and treating cultural difference in primary care: a qualitative interview study.

Caroline Wachtler, Annika Brorsson, Margareta Troein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (SciVal)


Background. Primary care doctors see patients from diverse cultural backgrounds and communication plays an important role in diagnosis and treatment. Communication problems can arise when patient and doctor do not share the same cultural background.

Objective. The aim of this study was to examine how consultations with immigrant patients are understood by GPs and how GPs manage these consultations.

Methods. Semi-structured interviews with GPs about their experiences with immigrant patients were recorded on audio-tape, transcribed and analysed using a qualitative thematic analysis methodology. A constructivist approach was taken to analysis and interpretation.

Results. Culture is not in focus when GPs meet immigrant patients. The consultation is seen as a meeting between individuals, where cultural difference is just one of many individual factors that influence how well doctor and patient understand each other. However, when mutual understanding is poor and the consultation not successful, cultural differences are central. The GPs try to conduct their consultations with immigrant patients in the same way that they conduct all their consultations. There is no specific focus on culture, instead, GPs tend to avoid addressing even pronounced cultural differences.

Conclusion. This study indicates that cultural difference is not treated in GPs consultation with immigrant patients. Learning about cultural difference's effect on mutual understanding between doctor and patient could improve GPs cross-cultural communication. Increased awareness of the culture the doctor brings to the consultation could facilitate management of cross-cultural consultations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-115
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Family Medicine


  • physician–patient relations
  • communication skills
  • Communication barriers
  • GPs
  • cultural diversity


Dive into the research topics of 'Meeting and treating cultural difference in primary care: a qualitative interview study.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this