Talk Like They Matter: Easy Steps to Implement Patient-Centered Communication in Healthcare 

Patient-Centered Communication
Patient-Centered Communication

Ever leave a doctor’s appointment feeling confused or unheard? You’re not alone. Great communication is key to good healthcare, and that means talking to patients in a way they understand and feel respected. 

This blog is your guide to patient-centred communication. We’ll explore some easy steps you can take to build trust, improve patient care, and make those appointments a breeze (well, as breezy as a doctor’s visit can be!).

A doctor talking to a patient

Easy Steps to Implement Patient-Centered Communication in Healthcare

Have you ever felt like your doctor’s appointment flew by in a blur of medical jargon, and you left more confused than when you arrived? It happens! But there’s a way to bridge the gap and create a better healthcare experience for everyone: patient-centered communication.

Here’s the good news: you don’t need a medical degree to master this. Here are some easy steps you, as a healthcare provider,  can take to improve communication with your patients:

Step 1. Building the Foundation: Before You Meet

Great communication starts even before you walk into the room. By gathering some key information beforehand, you can tailor your approach to each patient.  Review their medical history, but also consider their background and preferences.

 Are they comfortable with medical jargon? Do they prefer a more direct or collaborative approach to decision-making? Additionally, take a moment to prepare clear and concise talking points, ensuring you’ll cover everything effectively.

Step 2. During the Interaction: Talk and Listen with Empathy

Now comes the conversation itself. Here’s where your communication skills shine and lessen the impact of any ineffective communication in the healthcare workplace!

  • Speak Clearly:  Ditch the medical jargon and complex terms. Explain things in plain language that your patient can easily understand.
  • Active Listening is Key:  This isn’t just about hearing words. Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues. Make eye contact, nod encouragingly, and ask open-ended questions that go beyond “yes” or “no” answers. This shows patients you’re truly interested in their perspective.
  • Empathy Matters:  Acknowledge their feelings and concerns. Let them know you understand what they’re going through. A simple “That sounds frustrating” or “I can see why you’re worried” can make a big difference.
  • Body Language Speaks Volumes: Body language can be just as important as words. Make eye contact and maintain a warm, welcoming demeanour.  Sit comfortably close (but not too close!), and avoid crossing your arms, which can appear closed off.
  • Creating a Safe Space: Ensure the environment is comfortable and private.  This allows for open communication without feeling rushed or embarrassed.

Step 3. Shared Decision-Making:  A Partnership in Care

Treatment decisions shouldn’t be a one-way street. Present treatment options clearly and understandably, and then involve the patient in the decision-making process. Discuss the pros and cons of each option and answer any questions they may have.

Following these easy steps can create a more patient-centred communication style that benefits everyone. Patients feel heard, understood, and empowered to take an active role in their health.  This can lead to increased trust in their healthcare providers, better adherence to treatment plans, and ultimately, improved health outcomes.

Also read Communication Barriers In The Healthcare Workplace

A doctor talking to a patient
A doctor talking to a patient

Additional Tips for Patient-Centred Communication  Success

Tailor Your Approach

Remember, one-size-fits-all communication doesn’t work in healthcare. Consider these factors to personalize your approach:

  • Age: Young children may need simpler explanations and more visual aids, while older adults might appreciate a more detailed discussion.
  • Cultural Background: Be mindful of cultural sensitivities and communication styles. Use an interpreter if needed, and avoid making assumptions.
  • Health Literacy: Not everyone has a strong medical background. Assess your patient’s health literacy and explain things in clear, understandable terms. Break down complex concepts and avoid medical jargon.

Address Literacy Concerns

If you suspect a patient has limited health literacy, take these steps:

  • Speak simply and slowly.
  • Use everyday language and avoid medical jargon.
  • Break down complex information into smaller chunks.
  • Offer written materials in different languages or formats (large print, pictograms).
  • Encourage patients to ask questions and repeat back information to confirm understanding.

Active Listening

Effective communication is a two-way street. Here’s how to truly listen:

  • Minimize distractions. Put your phone away and focus on the patient.
  • Maintain eye contact and use positive body language.
  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage patients to elaborate.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language.
  • Summarize what you’ve heard to ensure understanding.

Encourage Patients to Ask Questions

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to health. Encourage patients to ask questions throughout the conversation. Let them know there are no bad questions and that their input is valued.

You may also want to check out 5 Fun Team-Building Exercises For Healthcare Professional


Patient-centred communication empowers patients by ensuring clear explanations, active listening, and shared decision-making. This approach, built on a foundation of preparation and respect, fosters trust, improves patient satisfaction, and leads to better health outcomes. By incorporating these simple steps, healthcare providers can create a more positive and productive experience for everyone involved.

Want to learn more about mastering communication in healthcare, read more here.

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