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November 8, 1985

Talking With Patients, vol 1: The Theory of Doctor-Patient Communications; vol 2: Clinical Technique

Author Affiliations

University of Chicago

JAMA. 1985;254(18):2669. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360180181050

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


"... the spoken language is our most important diagnostic and therapeutic tool, and we must be as precise in its use as a surgeon with a scalpel."

The author states that the dialogue between the physician and patient is the source from which all diagnostic and treatment efforts flow. He believes that insufficient attention has been given to teaching medical students and clinicians communication skills. His basic goal is to teach the clinician to listen and to speak with discipline, attention, and precision. He defines basic principles of linguistics and illustrates their clinical applications with excerpts from over 1,000 hours of tape-recorded interactions between physicians and about 800 consenting patients. A research team reviewed all of these transcriptions made in 1974 and 1975 and selected segments to demonstrate each section. Rich, detailed, and unexpurgated, the dialogue illustrates how to and how not to listen and speak with patients.

The spoken word