Promoting Patient Engagement in Medical Informed Consent – A Qualitative Study of Chinese Doctors’ Communication Strategies

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-79
Number of pages9
Journal / PublicationHealth Communication
Issue number1
Online published3 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2023


Patient engagement is now widely endorsed as an essential ingredient for high-quality healthcare, yet there has been limited research on how patient engagement can be facilitated in medical informed consent (IC) communication. To address this gap, a fine-grained discourse analysis was conducted to identify communication strategies adopted by doctors to facilitate information delivery and ascertain patients’ understanding, which translate into an increase in patient engagement. Data was collected from a public hospital in mainland China. Nonparticipating observations of 14 IC sessions were audio-recorded, followed by in-depth, semi-structured interviews with those observed patients. Four communication strategies emerged from the analysis: 1) seeking patients’ understanding of their condition; 2) explaining medical information by reference to shared knowledge and practice; 3) recognizing and addressing patients’ psychological concerns; 4) repeating critical information and checking patients’ understanding through teach-back. The adoption of these strategies enables doctors to tailor the scope and delivery of information to accommodate and address patients’ preferences, rather than defaulting to one-way information dumping. This study sheds light on the complexity of IC and further contributes to the ongoing endeavors to improve IC communication by raising the awareness of the role of patients in making mutually acceptable decisions. These identified strategies can be incorporated into medical communication training to facilitate delivery of healthcare that is sensitive to patients’ needs and expectations.