Verbal Communication


  • Make Sure Your Mouth is Visible: People often “hear” with their eyes, and need to see your mouth to make sure they’ve gotten a word right
  • Offer paper and pen to encourage the patient to take notes
  • Ask open-ended questions, using “what” or “how,” i.e. “What are your symptoms?” not “Do you have symptoms?”
  • Write down key points and instructions for your patient. (It is handy to have these notes in duplicate, one for the patient to take home, and one to be kept in the patient’s records)
  • Use the “Teach Back” method at the end of each concept (see below)*
  • Encourage your patients to follow-up by phone or email.
If the patient looks confused, he or she probably is. Stop and address that.

*The Teach Back Method is a great way to find out what your patient understands. Just ask the patient to restate the key concepts in his or her own words. If the information is inaccurate or incomplete, go over the concept again (using conversational terms the patient can understand) until the “teach back” is right.