Communicating with diverse patients: How patient and clinician factors affect disparities

Patient Educ Couns. 2018 Dec;101(12):2186-2194. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2018.08.021. Epub 2018 Aug 22.


Objective: Patient-clinician communication (PCC) may generate or reduce healthcare disparities. This paper is based on the 2017 International Conference on Communication in Healthcare keynote address and reviews PCC literature as a research area for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).

Methods: A narrative review of selected evidence on disparities in PCC experienced by race and ethnic minorities, associations between PCC and poor health outcomes, and patient and clinician factors related to PCC.

Results: Factors associated with poor quality PCC on the patient level include being a member of racial/ethnic minority, having limited English proficiency, and low health and digital literacy; on the clinician level, being less culturally competent, lacking communication skills to facilitate shared decision-making, and holding unconscious biases. Recommendations include offering patient- and/or clinician-targeted interventions to guard against unconscious biases and improve PCC, screening patients for health literacy and English proficiency, integrating PCC in performance processes, and leveraging health information technologies to address unconscious biases.

Conclusion: EffectivePCC is a pathway to decrease health disparities and promote health equity.

Practice implications: Standardized collection of social determinants of health in the Electronic Health Record is an importantfirst step in promoting more effective PCC.

Keywords: Health disparities; Minority health; Patient-clinician communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication*
  • Cultural Competency*
  • Culturally Competent Care
  • Female
  • Health Literacy*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Health
  • Patient Participation
  • Physician-Patient Relations*