Getting Communications Right with Patients

Watch our whiteboard video and access resources to help you build rapport and empathy with those you serve


Thank you for watching our whiteboard animation video. Here at the CPSO, we know that most Ontario physicians want to build strong, healthy, positive relationships with their patients. The problem is that those relationships can struggle or even break down if doctors don’t possess strong communication skills. To help strengthen those abilities, we offer the following resources that all physicians can apply to their practice.


CPSO policies are grounded in the values, principles and duties of medical professionalism articulated in our Practice Guide, and many of our policies touch on issues involving effective communication with patients. Check out the policies listed below that touch on communication issues, and to see the full list of CPSO polices, visit our policy main page.

The Doc Talk column from Dialogue

Doc Talk has been a regular feature in our quarterly magazine, Dialogue, for many years and is an invaluable tool for helping Ontario physicians strengthen their interactions with patients. The list below features some recent Doc Talk columns. To access more back issues of the magazine, visit the Dialogue publication page.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) resources

Lifelong learning and CPD are fundamental components of a physician’s commitment to practise medicine competently and ethically. As the above whiteboard video stresses, building rapport with and empathy for patients is something you can learn; it’s a skill you can build upon, improve, and strengthen. You can find a variety the communication-relevant CPD resources on our Communicator Role Resources page, and to learn more about CPD, visit our Continuing Professional Development main page.

Professionalism modules

While our Professionalism and Practice Program provides Ontario’s medical students with essential learning opportunities though in-person and online modules, we believe that all physicians can benefit from the materials captured in these lessons. Many of them address communication practices, with topics that include boundaries and sexual abuse, medical professionalism, and social media use. Visit our Professionalism and Practice Program page to download these and other modules.

Tips for improving communication with your patients

Here's a recap of the six tips, captured in the video above, for improving your communication skills with patients:

  1. See patients’ health issues as a narrative to be shared, rather than just an exchange of facts.
  2. Start with open-ended rather than close-ended questions.
  3. Be conscious of cultural differences that may exist between you and your patient.
  4. Avoid medical jargon or abbreviations that your patients would not be reasonably expected to know.
  5. Always explain the dynamic nature of disease.
  6. Be mindful not just of what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it.

Contact us

Having a communications issue with a patient? Contact our physician advisors for help at 1-800-268-7096 Ext. 606.