Visser, L. N. C., Bol, N., Hillen, M. A., Verdam, M. G. E., De Haes, H. C. J. M., Van Weert, J. C. M., & Smets, E. M. A. (2018). Studying medical communication with video vignettes: a randomized study on how variations in video-vignette introduction format and camera focus influence analogue patients’ engagement. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18, [15]. DOI: 10.1186/s12874-018-0472-3



Video vignettes are used to test the effects of physicians’ communication on patient outcomes. Methodological choices in video-vignette development may have far-stretching consequences for participants’ engagement with the video, and thus the ecological validity of this design. To supplement the scant evidence in this field, this study tested how variations in video-vignette introduction format and camera focus influence participants’ engagement with a video vignette showing a bad news consultation.


Introduction format (A = audiovisual vs. B = written) and camera focus (1 = the physician only, 2 = the physician and the patient at neutral moments alternately, 3 = the physician and the patient at emotional moments alternately) were varied in a randomized 2 × 3 between-subjects design. One hundred eighty-one students were randomly assigned to watch one of the six resulting video-vignette conditions as so-called analogue patients, i.e., they were instructed to imagine themselves being in the video patient’s situation. Four dimensions of self-reported engagement were assessed retrospectively. Emotional engagement was additionally measured by recording participants’ electrodermal and cardiovascular activity continuously while watching. Analyses of variance were used to test the effects of introduction format, camera focus and their interaction.


The audiovisual introduction induced a stronger blood pressure response during watching the introduction (p = 0.048, η2partialηpartial2= 0.05) and the consultation part of the vignette (p = 0.051, η2partialηpartial2= 0.05), when compared to the written introduction. With respect to camera focus, results revealed that the variant focusing on the patient at emotional moments evoked a higher level of electrodermal activity (p = 0.003, η2partialηpartial2= 0.06), when compared to the other two variants. Furthermore, an interaction effect was shown on self-reported emotional engagement (p = 0.045, η2partialηpartial2= 0.04): the physician-only variant resulted in lower emotional engagement if the vignette was preceded by the audiovisual introduction. No effects were shown on the other dimensions of self-reported engagement.


Our findings imply that using an audiovisual introduction combined with alternating camera focus depicting patient’s emotions results in the highest levels of emotional engagement in analogue patients. This evidence can inform methodological decisions during the development of video vignettes, and thereby enhance the ecological validity of future video-vignettes studies.


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