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Improving doctor–patient communication in the outpatient setting using a facilitation tool: a preliminary study

Naama Neeman, Thomas Isaac, Suzanne Leveille, Clementina Dimonda, Jacob Y. Shin, Mark D. Aronson, Steven D. Freedman
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/intqhc/mzr081 357-364 First published online: 21 December 2011


Quality problem Patients often do not fully understand medical information discussed during office visits. This can result in lack of adherence to recommended treatment plans and poorer health outcomes.

Choice of solution We developed and implemented a program utilizing an encounter form, which provides structure to the medical interaction and facilitates bidirectional communication and informed decision-making.

Implementation We conducted a prospective quality improvement intervention at a large tertiary-care academic medical center utilizing the encounter form and studied the effect on patient satisfaction, understanding and confidence in communicating with physicians. The intervention included 108 patients seen by seven physicians in five sub-specialties.

Evaluation Ninety-eight percent of patients were extremely satisfied (77%) or somewhat satisfied (21%) with the program. Ninety-six percent of patients reported being involved in decisions about their care and treatments as well as high levels of understanding of medical information that was discussed during visit. Sixty-nine percent of patients reported that they shared the encounter form with their families and friends. Patients' self-confidence in communicating with their doctors increased from a score of 8.1 to 8.7 post-intervention (P-value = 0.0018). When comparing pre- and post-intervention experiences, only 38% of patients felt that their problems and questions were adequately addressed by other physicians' pre-intervention, compared with 94% post-intervention.

Lessons learned We introduced a program to enhance physician–patient communication and found that patients were highly satisfied, more informed and more actively involved in their care. This approach may be an easily generalizable approach to improving physician–patient communication at outpatient visits.

  • quality improvement
  • patient satisfaction
  • patient-centered care
  • patient–provider communication/information
  • shared decision-making
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