Writing to patients: 'putting the patient in the picture'

Ir Med J. 2005 Feb;98(2):58-60.


We have explored consultant, general practitioner and patient attitudes toward the proposal that following an outpatient consultation, consultants should consider communicating directly with patients in the form of a summary letter, with a copy to the referring general practitioner or other professionals as appropriate. We conducted in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of 20 consultants, 16 patients and 12 general practitioners. The consultants and general practitioners were both involved in the care of participating patients. Patients highlighted the likely value of summary letters including, increased knowledge, improvement recall of the clinical encounter, and reassurance. Clinicians were concerned that patients would not understand letters from consultants. Additional concerns included the impact of letter on consultant-general practitioner relationship and medico-legal issues. These findings reflect fundamental differences in expectations about the nature and quality of communications between doctors and their patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Correspondence as Topic*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians, Family