The importance of physician listening from the patients' perspective: enhancing diagnosis, healing, and the doctor-patient relationship

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Dec;85(3):369-74. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.01.028. Epub 2011 Feb 18.


Objective: The research findings reported here describe the importance and various functions of physician listening according to patients.

Methods: Fifty-eight patients of the McGill University Health Centre were interviewed using a qualitative, interpretive design approach.

Results: Patients explained why listening was important to them and these findings were organized into three themes: (a) listening as an essential component of clinical data gathering and diagnosis; (b) listening as a healing and therapeutic agent; and (c) listening as a means of fostering and strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. The findings are presented along with a conceptual model on the functions of physician listening.

Conclusion: Elucidating the multiple functions of listening in the clinical encounter from patient perspectives can assist physicians in improving their listening approach.

Practice implications: For training purposes, we recommend that a module on listening should lead to a discussion not only about the skill required in listening attentively, but also to the values, beliefs, attitudes, and intentions of physicians who choose to listen to their patients. This teaching objective may be facilitated by future research that explores the concept of 'authenticity' in a physician's listening approach, which we argue is central to successful clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Canada
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Perception
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult