The first visit to a doctor is extremely crucial for formation of a healthy and successful doctor patient relationship. The development of this relationship is based on good communication and interaction with the patient which not only helps in cure, but also makes the patient comfortable right from the first visit. This is the foundation of a successful medical practice which goes beyond the normal conventional medical paradigms. Interpersonal communication is important not only to understand the patient, but to treat him as an individual with his own needs and problems, rather than a disease condition. It also helps to make the patient understand his medical condition and actively take part in taking care of themselves.

Many programs are designed to enhance a physician’s skill and improve their approach towards case taking and help them build a long lasting relationship with their patients. In these programs, communication skills are taught to the physician such that they can show the right amount of empathy and concern for the patient. This helps the patient in opening up before their doctors, thus enabling doctors to elicit the entire amount of requisite information from a patient. A successful medical encounter with the patient not only results in a positive healthcare outcome, but alsoleads to patient as well as professional satisfaction.

In this article

Basic Tenets of Interpersonal Communication

  • Attentive listening
  • Showing empathy and respect
  • Treating patient as an individual not a disease
  • Providing correct and honest information
  • Involving the patient in taking their own decisions regarding their condition

Benefits of Better Interpersonal Communication

Better Interpersonal Relationship

It helps in developing a good doctor patient relation which helps in diagnosis and treatment of the medical condition optimally. It helps to build trust between the treating doctor and patient.

Better Patient Engagement

Once the patient is comfortable, it becomes easier for the doctor to conduct the medical interview in such a way that the doctor can extract all the information they require in a professional way without making the patient uneasy. If the right amount of empathy and respect is shown, then it will help the patient abandon their fears regarding their medical condition and will assist them in actively taking part in decision making. Effective communication helps in the patient taking correct decisions.

Realistic Patient Expectations 

good communication along with putting across the correct information to the patient helps the patient not only understand his medical condition, but also makes them realise what they can expect from you as a treating physician. Being honest and educating patients about their condition go a long way in treatment.

Patient Satisfaction

A physician who is a good listener and gives time to the patient to dispel his fears and doubts not only has a more successful practice, but also rises in the eyes of the patient as not just a doctor, but the right person who can accurately guide them. This enhances patient satisfaction and helps in gaining the trust of the patient.

A Better Medical Practice

Establishing a good doctor patient relationship not only directly affects the outcome of treatment, but also leads to a satisfying and fulfilling practise for physicians. The physician also gains a respectable name amongst colleagues and in the medical circle, leading to healthy professional relationships even in the medical field.

Decreases Chances of Errors

A good interpersonal relationship reduces the chances of the patient withholding vital information, thus avoiding chances of error in diagnosis and treatment by the treating physician.


For a successful medical interview and establishment of a healthy relationship between a doctor and patient, it is not only time which counts but also the quality of communication.The patient judges the doctor by how well the doctor listens, understands and acknowledges their complaints. Educating the patient and explaining them about their condition helps the patient be more practical and realistic about their expectations  from the doctor. These points play a key role in the way the patient perceives and follows up with the doctor.

Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD


  • Schattner A: The silent dimension: expressing humanism in each medical encounter. Arch Intern Med 2009; 169:1095-99.
  • Levinson W, Roter D, Mullooly J, Dull V, Frankel R: Physician-patient communication. The relationship with malpractice claims among primary care physicians and surgeons. JAMA 1997; 277: 553-9.