The Impact of Communication Skills on the Patient-Provider Relationship and Patient Outcomes

Male doctor explaining results to middlea-ged female patient in hallway
Investigators reviewed the connection between communication skills and patient satisfaction and offered recommendations for improving the patient-provider relationship.

The time constraints of modern medicine, including elaborate electronic health record documentation and a financial dependence on short visits, have taken a toll on the patient-provider relationship (PPR). Interventions designed to improve communication skills can improve the PPR and patient outcomes, according to a report published in Gastroenterology.

A multidisciplinary team completed a systematic review of scientific evidence on the impact of communication skills on the PPR and patient outcomes. Additional factors that can impact the PPR, such as patient perspectives and social and cultural influences, were also assessed. The team utilized the scientific evidence from 99 studies to provide recommendations on improving the PPR.

Research indicated that the patient-perceived length of visit did not correspond with the actual length of visit, but rather the amount of patient-focused time. Allowing the patient to express their narrative, without interrupting, assists the patient in trusting the provider, leading to improved adherence and outcomes.

Miscommunication between the patient and a provider can be caused by a multitude of social or cultural factors. Individual patient characteristics such as age, gender, race, and ethnicity can all impact both the provider’s assessment of the patient, as well as the patient’s response to the provider. Communication regarding psychosomatic or “functional” disorders can be especially complicated, as patients may feel invalidated or stigmatized by terms and phrases used by the provider.

Skills-based communication training programs that focus on both verbal and non-verbal methods are beneficial in enhancing the PPR. Training can require minimal time and energy but lead to important improvements in the patient experience, patient satisfaction, and patient outcomes.


Drossman DA, Chang L, Deutsch JK, et al. A review of the evidence and recommendations on communication skills and the patient-provider relationship (PPR): a Rome Foundation working team report. Gastroenterol. Published online July 28, 2021. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2021.07.037