Focus on Quality

Communication in the Health Care Encounter

To explore the question of what constitutes “quality” in a health care encounter from the patient perspective, Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) conducted focus groups with African Americans, Latinos, Asian Indians and whites.

Participants were asked to define quality in the context of a visit to a primary care physician, and to describe their ideal visit and the characteristics of an excellent physician. Although participants frequently mentioned factors related to the health care setting (for example, waiting times, appearance of the doctor’s office, and efficiency of staff), their most common issues related to patient-provider communication.

Keys to Improving Communication:

  • Show familiarity with the patient at the outset of the health encounter.
  • Achieve greater cultural competency by practicing good listening and communication skills and understanding what is important to each patient.
  • Acknowledge patients' and providers' roles and responsibilities for encouraging an open dialogue.
  • Enhance medical training for physicians to focus on more therapeutic communication skills.