Conversation Analysis in Medicine


Illinois State University


Purdue University


For over 30 years, conversation analysts have been investigating medical interactions in an array of settings. Initial interest in primary-care encounters between physicians and patients has expanded to include interactions in a variety of specialty care settings as well as in allied fields such as pharmacy and dentistry. Research has also moved beyond the boundaries of the clinic to medical helpline calls, home-care visits, and other sites where care and consultation are provided. In addition to analyzing encounters organized around diagnosing and recommending treatment for illness, conversation analysts have investigated therapeutic interactions, including psychotherapy and physiotherapy, and interactions among medical professionals who are simultaneously engaged in treating patients and training future members of the field. Woven throughout this literature are considerations of how participants coordinate their actions around medical technologies and documents, and how they employ nonvocal resources such as touch and gaze. We will call this area of study medical CA. The expanding scope of inquiry and exponential growth in the number of medical CA publications and conferences over the last 30 years reflects its status as a substantive and vibrant subfield within Conversation Analysis.1

Medical CA emerged at a time when researchers were beginning ...

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