Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills

By John O. Greene; Brant R. Burleson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 23
INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS
IN HEALTH CARE CONTEXTS
Richard L. Street, Jr.
Department of Speech Communication, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

The study of communication in medical consultations has enjoyed a rich history of research and theory development. Much of this work reflects a “process–outcome” perspective as investigators try to identify factors affecting the way health care providers and patients communicate with one another and the outcomes (e.g., clinician and patient satisfaction with the encounter, patient adherence to physicians' recommendations, improved health) associated with these patterns of exchange (for reviews, see Kaplan, Greenfield, & Ware, 1989; Ong, De Haes, Hoos, & Lammes, 1995, Roter & Hall, 1993; Street, 2001). Inherent in this research is the idea that the success of the medical consultation and the quality of medical care delivery in large part depend on the clinician's and patient's skills as communicators (Kurtz, Silverman, & Draper, 1998).

The purpose of this essay is to examine essential features of effective communication in health care settings and how health care providers and patients acquire and produce competent communicative responses. First, I describe the kinds of communicative skills clinicians and patients need to accomplish the tasks of the medical consultation. Second, I provide a conceptual framework for understanding competent communication and factors affecting communicative performance. The framework offers a unique perspective relative to other approaches to the study and teaching of clinical communication skills because it focuses on basic processes related to the production of communicative behavior. Finally, I provide guidelines, based on communication theory and previous research in medical and patient education, for designing communication skills programs to help health care providers and patients improve the quality of their interactions.


THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION IN HEALTH
CARE SETTINGS

A growing body of research indicates that the way in which clinicians and patients communicate with one another can have a significant effect on the quality of care the

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