We all have a good idea of how we want things to go when we visit a physician. We expect to be able to explain why we are there, and we hope the physician will listen and possibly ask questions that help us clarify our thoughts. Most of us hope that the physician will provide some expression of empathy, offer a clear, nontechnical assessment of our problem, and describe "next steps" in a way that is easy to understand. Ideally, we would like to be asked about our ability to follow treatment recommendations. Some experts say that these expectations are not only reasonable but even necessary if patients are to get the care they need. Yet there is a growing body of research that suggests the reality of physician communication with patients often falls short of this ideal in many respects.
A careful analysis of the findings of this research can provide guidance to physician educators, health care administrators, and health policy makers interested in understanding the role that improved physician communication can play in improving quality of care and patient outcomes. Physician Communication with Patients summarizes findings from the academic literature pertaining to various aspects of this question, discussing those findings in the context of current pressures for change in the organization and delivery of medical services.
Jon B. Christianson is Professor and James A. Hamilton Chair in Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota. Louise Warrick is Independent Health Care Consultant. Michael Finch is Principal of Finch & King, Inc. Wayne Jonas is Founding Director of the Samueli Institute.