Publication Date



health communication, patient satisfaction, physician-patient relations, health care quality



Communication is crucial for patient experience and biomedical outcomes. Training programs improve communication but are too resource-intensive for sustained use across an entire health care organization. This study demonstrates in a heterogeneous set of encounters the efficacy of quantitative feedback on two groups of physician communication behaviors: 1) jargon explanation, and 2) assessment of patient understanding.


We used a secure Internet application to audio-record conversations between primary care physicians and 54 patients. Transcripts were quantitatively abstracted using explicit-criteria definitions for assessments of understanding and jargon explanations. These data were conveyed to physicians using a previously tested report card. Finally, physicians were audio-recorded with 48 other patients and compared against their baseline.


Baseline transcripts included an average of 15.5 unique jargon words. Many words were spoken more than once so the total jargon count averaged 25.1. Jargon explanations were infrequent (median of 2.6/ transcript). The jargon explanation ratio (fraction of jargon words spoken after or alongside a jargon explanation for that word) averaged 0.26 out of 1.0. Assessments of understanding were found in 61.1% of transcripts, but most were "OK?" questions (median of 2.22/transcript) or close-ended assessments of understanding (median of 0.59/transcript). After the report card, use of jargon explanations improved to a median of 4.8/transcript (P < 0.001), and the jargon explanation ratio improved to 0.37 (P < 0.02). Assessments of understanding improved to 81.3% of transcripts (P < 0.03), largely due to increased use of close-ended assessments of understanding to 1.08/transcript (P < 0.006).


It is feasible to audio-record at the point of care, abstract transcripts at a central office and improve physician-to-patient communication quality via a report card. A larger, multifaceted program may improve patient experience and biomedical outcomes.