There may be many barriers to effective physician-patient communication. Patients may feel that they are wasting the physician's valuable time; omit details of their history which they deem unimportant; be embarrassed to mention things they think will place them in an unfavorable light; not understand medical terminology; or believe the physician has not really listened and, therefore, does not have the information needed to make good treatment decisions.

Several approaches can be used to facilitate open communication with a patient. Physicians should:

  • sit down
  • attend to patient comfort
  • establish eye contact
  • listen without interrupting
  • show attention with nonverbal cues, such as nodding
  • allow silences while patients search for words
  • acknowledge and legitimize feelings
  • explain and reassure during examinations
  • ask explicitly if there are other areas of concern