How to Improve Doctor-Patient Communications

Dear House Rules,

Our company markets an oncology product. Most of the patient research we’ve done so far has shown that doctor-patient communication is a huge issue for consumers. How can we “coach” clinicians on how to have difficult conversations without alienating them? Of course, we’d like to improve our market share at the same time.


Talk is priceless

Dear Talk:

You’re exactly right. For an issue that’s so important to patients, especially those with serious conditions like cancer, doctor-patient communication is sadly underemphasized in medical education. Studies on doctor-patient communication have demonstrated patient discontent even when many doctors considered the interaction adequate or even excellent, tending to overestimate their communication abilities.1 One study reported that 75% of the orthopedic surgeons surveyed believed that they communicated satisfactorily with their patients, but only 21% of the patients reported satisfactory communication with their doctors.1 In fact, patient surveys have consistently shown that they want better communication with their doctors.1

Nowadays, patient-centered medicine may seem like the norm, but it’s important to remember that it hasn’t always been common practice.1 For example, in the 1950s to 1970s, most doctors considered it inhumane and detrimental to patients to disclose bad news because of the bleak treatment prospect for cancers.1 Although the medical model has more recently evolved from paternalism to individualism,1 there is plenty of room for improvement in the now-dominant model of Information exchange.

A Unique Marketing Opportunity

A great deal of research has been performed, showing that improving physician communication about end-of-life care, for example, is associated with better patient quality of life – a better quality of death, too, with far fewer unnecessary tests and treatments.2 This represents a huge opportunity for you and companies like yours: the opportunity to teach doctors how to communicate.

Whether you choose to produce a completely unbranded “value-add” piece, or a branded educational guide that intersperses communication tips with brand-specific information is up to you. The important thing is to drive physicians to spend more time with their patients – time they’ll hopefully spend discussing your brand as a positive option.


Careful Copy, and a Possible Partnership

The copy in such a piece must be written with a great deal of sensitivity – treading the fine line between educating physicians on a skill they may be less proficient in than they believe and acknowledging their significant expertise on more clinical topics. Xavier Creative House understands that delicate balance, and would be happy to partner with you to develop effective tools to address this communication gap in a way that promotes your brand.

References: 1. Ha JF and Longnecker N. Doctor-Patient Communication: A Review. Ochsner J. 2010 Spring;10(1):38-43. 2. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/can-doctors-be-taught-how-to-talk-to-patients/?_r=2. Accessed March 22, 1012.

About Xavier Creative House

Founded in 2013, Xavier Creative House (XCH) is an award-winning healthcare creative agency specializing in pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device. XCH’s global team of brand builders and healthcare marketers, tech-savvy go-getters, and innovative dream-vetters are passionate about the big idea that changes behavior in the healthcare marketplace. They believe life is about connections and that healthcare is about life. That is why XCH delivers bold and evocative creative solutions, amplified by meaningful technology, to energize brands and authentically connect with patients and HCPs.

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For more information, contact

Sunny White
Founder & CEO of Xavier Creative House