This essay analyses how skilful communication can influence the health behaviours of the patients. It looks at the importance of communication in healthcare and the different models of communication available to the healthcare personnel. These professionals need to decide on the model to use in order to ensure that they persuade the patients to change their health decisions by adhering to all the recommendations given to them


Effective communication between healthcare personnel and the patients is important in clinical function as well as building a therapeutic relationship between them and the patients. Much of the dissatisfaction registered by patients and their failure to change their health behaviours are as a result of the breakdown of their relationship with the health care providers (Bryan 2009, p.75). However, many doctors often tend to overestimate their ability to effectively communicate with the patients thereby exacerbating the problem. Skilful communication and interpersonal skills encompasses the ability of healthcare professionals to gather information and use it to advise the patients appropriately with a view of influencing their health behaviours (Webb 2011, p. 57). This essay covers how skilful communication influences the health behaviour of patients.

Healthcare Communication

Communication is an important clinical skill that is very essential to clinical competence. The components of communication include non-verbal behaviours, listening and attending skills. All healthcare professionals need to understand the basic anatomy and physiology of communication (Bryan 2009, p. 66). They need to understand the variables that affect reception, processing and expression. A good comprehension of communication on delivery of healthcare is important in influencing health behaviour of the patients. They also need to understand the multicultural context in which the communication process occurs because it affects the manner in which the patients perceive the disseminated information. This should be in tandem with a good comprehension of therapeutic responses as they are significant in care management, increasing patient awareness and capacity for self-care and personal health management (Van 2009, p. 101).

Models of Healthcare Communication

Human beings often respond to illness and health differently, for instance some may choose to ignore or deny health threats while others face the threats by collecting the necessary information and acting accordingly and appropriately (Muller 2001, p. 88). There are different models designed to help understand the ways in which healthcare professionals interact with particular health outcomes. All these models contribute towards the successful understanding of communication in healthcare. These models are as follows: the therapeutic model, king’s interactive model, the developmental model, health belief model, health belief model for compliance, and the model for participative decision making (Jones & Jenkins 2007, p. 18). ). The therapeutic model puts emphasis on the importance of relationships in assisting the patients to adjust to their current conditions and take positive measures aimed at improving their health. The model emphasises on dyadic communication and the level of success is dependent on respect, trust, genuineness and non-judgemental attitude (Eisenberg 2012, p. 45).The healthy belief model explains how healthy people seek to avoid illnesses by outlining the nature of people’s preventative healthcare. The model is designed to indicate how personal health behaviours are influenced by perceived threats and benefits. It emphasises on perceptions and beliefs that can be modified to result in changed health behaviour. In this model communication is perceived as an essential tool for influencing the behaviour of the patients. The health belief model for compliance is an expansion of the health belief model and it includes the beliefs of patients that are already suffering from illnesses and have to comply with treatment. It aims at predicting compliance of patients to treatment to assist healthcare professionals in designing interventions to suit the needs of individual patients (Hugman 2009, p. 33). The King’s interaction model explains the communication between a nurse and a patient. It incorporates transactional aspects of human communication and the need for feedback. The model regards the trust between the nurse and the patient as vital in the effectiveness of the communication process. The model for participative decision making for patient doctor interaction postulates that when clients don’t get enough information from doctors or when there are communication barriers then they are likely to reject the treatment or decrease compliance (Eisenberg 2012, p.24). Therefore, the patients are supposed to be fully informed on their conditions and all the available options for treatment. The development model for health communication focuses on the communication occurring within the various relationships in healthcare settings. Its emphasis is on how different factors and contexts influence the interactions between different individuals in health communication. All the participants have their own perspectives based on their individual beliefs and values. These perspectives influence the choice of the participants to interact with the others and as such healthcare personnel must always have this in mind (Hugman 2009, p.71).

Importance of Skilful Communication as an Aspect of Care

In an attempt to show the importance of communication in healthcare delivery, it is apparent that communication and healthcare delivery are indivisible. Delivery of healthcare to the patients encompasses more than just the administration of drugs. Healthcare delivery has moved from the task oriented practice it was in the past towards a therapeutic process that involves a wide range of roles focused on the health of the individual patients, their health and wellbeing (Tamparo & Lindh 2008, p. 69). The therapeutic effect of good communication between healthcare professionals and patients on healthcare delivery cannot be ignored. Provision of social support to the patients reassures them and can even lower blood pressure. Patients regard the health professionals who communicate effectively at an emotional level as warm, caring and empathetic. This enables the patients to engender trust in them and encourages them to disclose worries and concerns that they would have otherwise not have disclosed. In addition to this, useful and informative communication between the healthcare professionals and the patients encourages them to take more interest in their condition, ask pertinent questions and develop greater understanding and self-care (Jones & Jenkins 2007, p.38). It is this interest and understanding of the importance of self-care that drives the patients to positively change their health behaviours. This happens especially when the patients are allowed to ask questions and are involved in treatment decisions. The patients also experience benefits when the health professionals provide a good environment, give accurate information, use therapeutic communication and encourage positive motivation (Nemeth 2008, p. 93). Therefore good communication in the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients is an important tool for therapeutic intervention as well as good care.

Basic communication skills alone are not sufficient to create and sustain successful therapeutic relationship between the patients and the healthcare providers. Successful therapeutic relationships are made up of shared perceptions and feelings on the nature of the problem, objectives of treatment and psychological support. Interpersonal skills develop from the basic communication between the doctors, nurses and other carers with the patients. Appropriate communication should be centred on both the carers and the patients as both sides are important in building and sustaining interpersonal relationships. The ultimate goal of any communication between the medical personnel and the patients is always to improve the health of the patients and medical care. Good communication skills are required for developing a high quality, effective and safe healthcare delivery. The skills are important for gathering information, diagnosis, treatment and educating the patients (Nemeth 2008, p.55). Effective communication benefits both the doctors and the patients because they are part of the treatment process.

Previous studies on communication between the patients and doctors and nurses demonstrate that many patients are discontented even when the doctors and nurses consider it sufficient or excellent (Pilnick et al 2010, p 47). This implies that doctors and nurses often tend to overestimate their communication abilities. Patient surveys consistently indicate that the want the communication between them and the healthcare personnel to be improved (Tamparo & Lindh 2008, p.88). In the past most of the medical personnel considered disclosing bad news to patients as inhumane and detrimental to their medical condition. However, medical practice has now evolved from paternalism to individualism and is now characterised by shared decision making and communication that is centred on the patients. Effective communication between the doctors and the patients is very important in clinical function because it plays a central role in healthcare delivery.

Perhaps the most significant importance of communication in influencing health behaviour of the patients stems from the fact that the nature of health care is changing from treatment of illnesses to management of chronic disease as more and more people are now living with survivable chronic illnesses (Van 2009, p.74). This implies that the healthcare professionals need to encourage the patients to take good care of their health. For instance the patients living with diabetes are required to manage their blood sugar levels. Quality of life is more important to healthcare as patients are now living longer with chronic illnesses like cancer and bipolar disorders. Therefore treatment choice is now more dependent on the individual patients and must suit their preferences, values and expectations.


Communication is an important tool that healthcare personnel can use to pass useful information to the patients. Well educated patients and their families need to be informed to make important health decisions in order to attain the aims of managed healthcare. Healthcare professionals need to disseminate relevant and persuasive information to the patients to help them change their health behaviours. They can rely on the models of healthcare communication to communicate to the patients based on their individual characteristics.


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