Patient-Provider Communication

Tips for Achieving Good Patient-Provider Communication

Good communication in cancer care should successfully:

  • Build a trusting relationship between the patient, family caregivers, and the health care team
  • Help the patient, family caregivers, and health care team share information with each other
  • Help the patient and family talk about feelings and concerns 

Public health professionals can help achieve good patient-provider communication using these tips:

  • Emphasize the critical role that providers can play in addressing the information needs of patients and caregivers (Finney Rutten et al., 2005).
  • Remind providers that patients often report health professionals as their most important information source (Shea-Budgell et al., 2014).
  • Emphasize to providers the importance of clear and comprehensive communication with patients (Husson, Mols, & van de Poll-Franse, 2010; Institute of Medicine, 2013).
  • Prompt providers to spend more time talking to their patients (Peppercorn, 2012).
  • Integrate cultural knowledge into the style of your communication messages while educating communities at risk (Kagawa-Singer et al., 2010).
  • Provide cultural context and background for health messages, as communication efforts that include these topics may be more effective than those that do not (Viswanath & Emmons, 2006).
  • Avoid cancer information overload in your communication strategy (Chae, Lee & Jensen, 2015).
  • Inform patients and caregivers about available resources they can request.
  • Create messages to help providers recognize the potential influence of their implicit bias on providing quality care (Dovidio & Fiske, 2011; Gordon et al., 2006).


Chae, J., Lee, C., Jensen, J.D. (2015). Correlates of cancer information overload: Focusing on individual ability and motivation. Health Communication, 31(5), 626-634.

Dovidio, J.F., Fiske, S.T. (2012) Under the radar: How unexamined biases in decision-making processes in clinical interactions can contribute to health care disparities. American Journal of Public Health 102(5), 945-952. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300601  

Finney Rutten, L.J., Arora, N.K., Bakos, A.D., Aziz, N. & Rowland, J. (2005). Information needs and sources of information among cancer patients: A systematic review of research. Patient Education and Counseling, 57(3), 250-261.

Husson O, Mols F, van de Poll-Franse L V. The relation between information provision and health-related quality of life, anxiety and depression among cancer survivors: A systematic review. Ann Oncol. 2010;22:761-772. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdq413

Institute of Medicine. Delivering high-quality cancer care: charting a new course for a system in crisis. The National Academies Press.

Kagawa-Singer, M., Valdez Dadia, A., Yu, M. C., & Surbone, A. (2010). Cancer, culture and health disparities: Time to chart a new course? CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 60(1), 12-39.

Peppercorn J: Need to improve communication in breast cancer care [Editorial]. J Clin Oncol. 2012;30(15):1744-1746. doi:10.1200/jco.2011.41.3195

Shea-Budgell MA, Kostaras X, Myhill KP, Hagen NA. Information needs and sources of information for patients during cancer follow-up. Curr Oncol. 2014;21(4):165-73. doi:10.3747/co.21.1932

Viswanath, K. & Emmons, K. M. (2006). Message effects and social determinants of health: Its application to cancer disparities. Journal of Communication, 56, S238-S264.