Communication between patient and providers is extremely important, especially for the treatment of chronically ill patients, characterized by a biopsychosocial disease model. This article presents an overview of the current status of research on patient-provider communication in 3 selected areas: the communication preferences of chronically ill persons, the correlation between communication and relevant endpoints, and interventions to improve patient-provider communication. One major result of the research is that patients display a rather high degree of inter- and intra-individual variability with respect to the preference of certain communication styles (e.g. patient participation); there are differences among them, and they develop varying preferences in the course of their illness. However, communicative behavior of the provider that is generally perceived by many patients to be positive can also be identified: affective behavior (for example, asking the patient about his/her feelings, being sensitive to these feelings and responding to them), providing information in an understandable, proactive manner, and attempting to understand the patient's perceptions, expectations, and cognitive concepts. Successful communication requires a certain congruence between the patient's communication preferences and the provider's behavior. It has been sufficiently documented in literature that successful communication leads to greater adherence. The correlation to patient satisfaction is not documented quite as clearly but has often been shown. The findings vary with respect to the improvement in the patient's health status. The effectiveness of communication training for providers has been documented quite well regarding the immediate endpoints in patient-provider interaction (e.g., patient-oriented behavior); the evidence with respect to medium-term endpoints such as patient satisfaction varies, also due to the number of possible operationalizations of the endpoints. Supplementing provider training with communication-related training for patients appears to be an important and useful method as many studies have shown that the behavior of providers can be influenced using relatively simple measures that start with the patient. There is a need for further development of research on patient-provider communication, in particular with respect to a more solid theoretical basis, integration of methods including qualitative and quantitative methods, self-evaluations, and interaction analyses, and also concerning conducting more longitudinal studies.
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