Patient-centered communication: Basic skills

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186 Citations (Scopus)


Communication skills needed for patient-centered care include eliciting the patient’s agenda with open-ended questions, especially early on; not interrupting the patient; and engaging in focused active listening. Understanding the patient’s perspective of the illness and expressing empathy are key features of patient-centered communication. Understanding the patient’s perspective entails exploring the patient’s feelings, ideas, concerns, and experience regarding the impact of the illness, as well as what the patient expects from the physician. Empathy can be expressed by naming the feeling; communicating understanding, respect, and support; and exploring the patient’s illness experience and emotions. Before revealing a new diagnosis, the patient’s prior knowledge and preferences for the depth of information desired should be assessed. After disclosing a diagnosis, physicians should explore the patient’s emotional response. Shared decision making empowers patients by inviting them to consider the pros and cons of different treatment options, including no treatment. Instead of overwhelming the patient with medical information, small chunks of data should be provided using repeated cycles of the “ask-tell-ask” approach. Training programs on patient-centered communication for health care professionals can improve communication skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-34
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Family Physician
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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