Intended for healthcare professionals


Improving doctor-patient communication

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 27 June 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1922

Not an option, but a necessity

  1. Siegfried Meryn, Professor of internal medicine (
  1. Center for Advanced Medical Education and Health Communication, Medical Faculty, University of Vienna Borschkegasse 8 B, A-1097 Vienna, Austria

    In most Western countries healthcare systems are changing; political and economic forces are behind the growth of profit driven medicine, managed care, and an increasingly technological focus. Paradoxically, at a time of global communication and the “Net generation,” we are faced with a breakdown in communication between patients and doctors, increasing patient dissatisfaction, rising numbers of complaints and claims for malpractice, and abandonment of conventional medicine for alternatives that are often unproved.1

    What do patients want? Most complaints by patients and the public about doctors deal with problems of communication not with clinical competency.2 The commonest complaint is that doctors do not listen to them. Patients want more and better information about their problem and the outcome, more openness about the side effects of treatment, relief of pain and emotional distress, and advice on what they can …

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