A conceptual framework for patient-professional communication: an application to the cancer context

Psychooncology. 2005 Oct;14(10):801-9; discussion 810-1. doi: 10.1002/pon.950.


We present a conceptual framework of one-to-one, in-person communication that occurs between a health-care professional and a patient. The framework is intended as a tool for organizing and summarizing relevant research but it can also help guide assessing the communication process and can help guide development of interventions to improve the process. The framework includes four key components, with a focus on elements that can be modified. The first component is the focus of the interaction: each participant's communication goals. The second component consists of the participants themselves, each with five key attributes that determine, in part, how they address their goals. The third component is the communication process: each person both conveys messages and receives messages, and the messages themselves can be verbal, non-verbal, or silent. The communication process is iterative and extended in time with one act having an impact on following acts. Finally, the fourth component is the environment in which the communication occurs, both the immediate physical setting and the context beyond. Important aspects of the environment, identified as external factors, affect the communication process through their impact on the participants' attributes. The framework builds on classic communication frameworks to which it adds unique elements. Some of its unique aspects include the prominent role of the participants' goals and its distinct recognition that messages are conveyed through silence. The framework serves as a common conceptualization of factors important to successful communication for the remaining review papers in this series and for future studies of practitioner-patient communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / trends
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Neoplasms / parasitology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Professional-Patient Relations*