Eight questions for better patient/caregiver dialog

Identify agreements as well as differences

"Arthur Kleinman, a medical anthropologist from Harvard University [Cambridge, MA] has simplified the process of negotiating communications between health care provider and patient in the health setting. By asking his eight questions, we can identify where we agree and where we differ and build our communications from that point," says Fran London, MS, RN, a health education specialist at The Emily Center, Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The eight questions include the following:

  • What do you call the problem?
  • What do you think has caused the problem?
  • Why do you think it started when it did?
  • What do you think the sickness does? How does it work?
  • How severe is the sickness? Will it have a short or long course?
  • What kind of treatment do you think the patient should receive? What are the most important results you hope he/she receives from this treatment?
  • What are the chief problems the sickness has caused?
  • What do you fear most about the sickness?

Many health care institutions have adapted these questions to fit their environments, says London.


For more information about the translation of patient education materials, contact:

Kathy Ordelt, RN, Patient and Family Education Coordinator, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, 1001 Johnson Ferry Road N.E., Atlanta, GA 30342. Telephone: 404.929.8641. E-mail: kathy.ordelt@choa.org