Interdisciplinary Research on Patient-Provider Communication: A Cross-Method Comparison


  • Wen-ying Sylvia Chou National Cancer Institute
  • Paul Han Maine Medical Center
  • Alison Pilsner National Cancer Institute
  • Kisha Coa Westat-National Cancer Institute
  • Larrie Greenberg George Washington University School of Medicine
  • Benjamin Blatt George Washington University School of Medicine



patient-provider communication, medical education, discourse analysis, coding studies, measurement methods, mixed method research


Patient-provider communication, a key aspect of healthcare delivery, has been assessed through multiple methods for purposes of research, education, and quality control. Common techniques include satisfaction ratings and quantitatively- and qualitatively-oriented direct observations. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches is critically important in determining the appropriate assessment method for a specific research or practical goal. Analyzing 10 videotaped simulated encounters between medical students and Standardized Patients (SPs), this study compared three existing assessment methods through the same data set. Methods included: (1) dichotomized SP ratings on students’ communication skills; (2) Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS) analysis; and (3) inductive discourse analysis informed by sociolinguistic theories. The large dichotomous contrast between good and poor ratings in (1) was not evidenced in any of the other methods. Following a discussion of strengths and weaknesses of each approach, we pilot-tested a combined assessment done by coders blinded to results of (1)-(3). This type of integrative approach has the potential of adding a quantifiable dimension to qualitative, discourse-based observations. Subjecting the same data set to separate analytic methods provides an excellent opportunity for methodological comparisons with the goal of informing future assessment of clinical encounters.

Author Biographies

Wen-ying Sylvia Chou, National Cancer Institute

Wen-ying Sylvia Chou is a Program Director at the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute, USA. She received a Ph.D in sociolinguistics from the Georgetown University, and a Master in Public Health from University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include patient-provider communication, narratives, social media, health disparities, and mixed methods health communication research.

Paul Han, Maine Medical Center

Paul Han, MD, MPH, is a Clinical Investigator at Maine Medical Center. His research focuses on risk communication, informed decision making, and patient-centered care. His recent work has centered on understanding and management of scientific uncertainty in health care and in developing improved prognostic models to support clinical decision making.

Alison Pilsner, National Cancer Institute

Alison Pilsner, MPH, CPH, CHES, is the Senior Account Executive and E-Health Ambassador at MMG, Inc. She is currently leading the National Cancer Institute’s Smokefree Women Project, which uses new media to reach and engage women smokers.

Kisha Coa, Westat-National Cancer Institute

Kisha Coa, MPH, is a doctoral student at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Her research interests include patient-provider communication, cancer communication, and health disparities. At the time of the study, she was a research analyst at Westat in Rockville, MD.

Larrie Greenberg, George Washington University School of Medicine

Larrie Greenberg, MD, is currently Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, internal consultant in faculty development at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and a long-time clinician-educator and researcher in medical education. He has published over 200 abstracts, book chapters and papers in the field.

Benjamin Blatt, George Washington University School of Medicine

Benjamin Blatt, MD, is a Professor of Medicine at George Washington University and Medical Director of the CLASS Clinical Skills Center. His research interests include using simulated patients to better understand doctor-patient communication.



How to Cite

Chou, W.- ying S., Han, P., Pilsner, A., Coa, K., Greenberg, L., & Blatt, B. (2011). Interdisciplinary Research on Patient-Provider Communication: A Cross-Method Comparison. Communication and Medicine, 8(1), 29–40.