Effective Interpersonal Communication in Healthcare Context

Written by Nurhanis binti Hazry

Effective interpersonal communication between doctor and patient is one of the most essential factors in improving health outcomes. Based on medical terms, doctor is a person with a medical degree (MBBS) whose job is to treat people who are ill or hurt (patient). The quality of effective interpersonal communication between doctor and patient has led to patients’ satisfaction, appointment keeping, recall of information, compliance with therapeutic diagnosis and improvements of physiological markers such as blood pressure and blood glucose among patients.

A good interpersonal communication skills mastered by a doctor enables their patients to disclose critical information about their health problems. It enhances healthcare counselling, provide better patient compliance and thus, resulting in more appropriate treatment diagnosis. It also benefits the health system as a complete, efficient and cost-effective preferred and trusted by patients. Thus, doctors, patients, healthcare providers, administrators and policy makers have a stake in improved effective interpersonal communication interactions.

According to Nicholas et al. (1991), the communication in healthcare context is determined by the socio-demographic characteristics between of the doctor and patient. It is also aided by the environment in which the communication takes place. Here, socio-demographic characteristics consist of the age, sex, ethnicity and educational background. Theses demographic characteristics may affect how they communicate with each other. Other factors such as degree of comfort and cleanliness of the hospital, space of privacy, time allocated for encounters and treatment of patients from time they enter the hospital can also enhance doctor-patient interaction.

As stated by Loevinsohn (1990), interpersonal communication between doctor and patient is effective when it leads to the following outcomes:

  • The doctor selects a medically appropriate treatment acceptable to the patient
  • The patient discloses enough information about their illness
  • The patient understands his or her condition
  • The doctor and patient establish positive interaction
  • The doctor and patient are both committed in fulfilling their responsibilities during treatment and follow-up care.

As a conclusion, positive health outcomes have been associated with effective communication between doctor and patient. Patient satisfaction, recall of information, appointment keeping, improvement of physiological markers such as blood pressure and blood glucose have all been directly linked to an effective doctor-patient interaction.


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  2. Roemer MI, Montoya-Aguilar C. Quality Assessment and Assurance in Primary Healthcare. Geneva: WHO Offset Publication, 1988.
  3. Loevinsohn BP. Health Education Interventions in Developing Countries:
    A Methodological Review of Published Articles.
    International Journal of Epidemiology 1990 Dec:19(4):788-794.
  4. Nicholas DD, Heiby JR, Hatzell TA. The Quality Assurance Project: Introducing Quality Improvement to Primary Healthcare in Less Developed Countries. Quality Assurance in Health Care 1991, 3(3):147-165.

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