Date of Award

Spring 1998

Document Type



Communication Studies

First Advisor

Charlotte Jones

Second Advisor

Brent Northup

Third Advisor

David Westlake


Research reveals that many of our perceptions and expectations are based on or even originate from media, including television. Since we utilize television for news and entertainment, it is important to examine its content. Specifically, this study examines delivery and reception in two television medical dramas - “ER” and “Chicago Hope.” Within delivery, a physician provides news concerning a patient’s health, and reception pertains to a patient’s response to a physician’s diagnosis. From watching these television programs, viewers may develop expectations and personal scripts that effect personal decision-making and perceptions in real-life medical encounters. However, depending on the television portrayals of physician-patient interaction, these expectations may be based on realistic or unrealistic information. Thus, whether or not patients’ expectations are based on inaccurate or accurate television portrayals could mean the difference between satisfaction, compliance, and overall health improvement and being dissatisfied and distrusting health care providers. Investigation uncovered limited research on delivery and reception in real-life medical settings as well as information pertaining to media’s potential affects on audiences. However, no previous research on delivery and reception on television was found. I explored characteristics of delivery and reception in television medical dramas and compared these findings to delivery and reception in real-life clinical interviews. In the present study, both similarities and differences were revealed. Analysis revealed common communication features in good news and bad news diagnostic delivery and reception on television and in real-life. Also, in bad news situations, patients rarely challenged a diagnosis as described by Heath (1992) in real-life medical encounters. As for differences, no research was revealed describing tentative news delivery in emergency room or hospital settings. However, analysis of the present study revealed that diagnostic delivery was delivered in three contexts: good news, bad news, and tentative news.