Communication can be seen as the main ingredient in medical care. In reviewing doctor-patient communication, the following topics are addressed: (1) different purposes of medical communication; (2) analysis of doctor-patient communication; (3) specific communicative behaviors; (4) the influence of communicative behaviors on patient outcomes; and (5) concluding remarks. Three different purposes of communication are identified, namely: (a) creating a good inter-personal relationship; (b) exchanging information; and (c) making treatment-related decisions. Communication during medical encounters can be analyzed by using different interaction analysis systems (IAS). These systems differ with regard to their clinical relevance, observational strategy, reliability/validity and channels of communicative behavior. Several communicative behaviors that occur in consultations are discussed: instrumental (cure oriented) vs affective (care oriented) behavior, verbal vs non-verbal behavior, privacy behavior, high vs low controlling behavior, and medical vs everyday language vocabularies. Consequences of specific physician behaviors on certain patient outcomes, namely: satisfaction, compliance/adherence to treatment, recall and understanding of information, and health status/psychiatric morbidity are described. Finally, a framework relating background, process and outcome variables is presented.