Self-reported use of communication techniques in the emergency department

Danielle M. McCarthy, Kenzie A. Cameron, D. Mark Courtney, John A. Vozenilek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Communication is considered a core competency for physicians. However, the Emergency Department setting poses significant and unique communication challenges. Objective: The objective of this study was to explore self-reported use and perceptions of effectiveness and feasibility of communication techniques used by Emergency Physicians for communication with patients. Methods: This cross-sectional study utilized a previously published survey on eight communication techniques. Respondents were asked to quantify their personal use and perceptions of effectiveness and feasibility of each technique. Responses were analyzed for differences based on practice setting (community, academic) and provider role (attending, resident). The survey was administered to a convenience sample recruited at the national meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Results: One hundred and sixty-nine participants were enrolled (70.5% male; 55.8% attending physicians, 44.2% residents; 66.2% practiced in academic settings). Using simple language and speaking slowly to patients were the only techniques identified as being used routinely by a majority of the sample (92.2% and 61.3%, respectively). A majority of the sample ranked seven of the techniques as effective; all techniques were considered feasible in the Emergency Department. No differences were noted across provider role or practice setting. Conclusion: The majority of respondents are not utilizing communication techniques, despite their own beliefs that the techniques are effective and easy to implement in the Emergency Department. Additional research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these techniques and relevant barriers to their use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e355-e361
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • health literacy
  • teach back
  • verbal communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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