Into the Spotlight: Exploring the Use of the Dictaphone During Surgical Consultations

Maria R. Dahm*, Catherine O'Grady, Lynda Yates, Peter Roger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The study of computer use during consultations and in clinical communication teaching has generated considerable research interest in recent decades, but few studies have investigated how the use of other technological devices such as the dictaphone may be linked to the acquisition of interpersonal communication skills. Research on the dictaphone has focused on “backstage” activity such as dictating consultation letters after consultations, and largely neglected its potential in “frontstage” interactions with patients or as an educational tool in teaching clinical communication. This article draws on 28 consultations recorded in a gastrointestinal clinic and a follow-up interview with the participating surgeon to explore the use of the dictaphone during consultations. All data were transcribed and reiterative thematic analyses were conducted. The analyses presented here show how the dictaphone can serve a range of important relational and medical functions when used to co-construct consultation letters with patients. These functions include establishing and maintaining rapport, building trust, checking and clarifying information, aiding information accuracy, and closing the consultation. This study shows how a technological device usually reserved for “backstage” medical communication can be successfully used as a communicative tool in “frontstage” interactions and illustrates the multifaceted and beneficial functions of the dictaphone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-520
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2015


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