In the domain of medical science, factual evidence is usually considered as the criterion on which to base decisions and construct hypotheses. Evidence-based medicine is the translation of this approach into the field of patient care, and it means providing only the type of care that is based on evidence that proves its effectiveness and appropriateness. However, while the literature has focused on the types and force of evidence used to establish the recommendation and treatment guidelines, the problem of how evidence is used in doctor–patient interactions to motivate, or refuse, treatment or habit change has been almost completely neglected. In this specific context, characterized by the epistemic unbalance between the interlocutors and a specific conversational goal (making a decision shared by the patient), the scientific categories of evidence are often irrelevant. The goal of this paper is to address this challenge by analyzing the role evidence plays in doctor–patient interactions in diabetes care. After introducing an analytical distinction between the epistemic and the pragmatic aspect of evidence, we will propose a classification of the types and functions of evidence in chronic care communication, and illustrate its possible uses through its application to our corpus of diabetes-care consultations. From our qualitative analyses, it is possible to observe how in this communicative context a crucial role is played by the conflicts of evidence, in which providers correct patients’ uses of evidence leading them to using less defeasible levels of evidence.
- Chronic care communication
- Probative force