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Patient-centred communication

Fostering understanding

Overview and objectives

Female physician in foreground with male physician speaking to family in background


Communicating is about fostering understanding, not only transferring information and knowledge. That's why, from the beginning of medical training, physicians are taught to talk with patients in a manner that is appropriate to their patients' culture and education level.

Doctors tend to think in a structured way and to use terms with specific medical meanings. This may lead to misunderstandings. However, doctors are expected to try to recognize and overcome these differences in understanding. That effort is the essence of patient-centred care.

This topic deals with specific aspects of communication with patients — with the aim of helping to provide safer patient care and avoid medical-legal problems.


After completing this topic you will be able to:
  • Describe "patient-centred communication."
  • State the SPIKES principles.
  • State 5 actions that are part of "etiquette-based" medicine.
  • Explain the medical-legal risks of inadequate communication.