Persuasive communication in medical decision-making during consultations with patients with limited health literacy in hospital-based palliative care

Esther M A Geurts*, Carina A C M Pittens, Gudule Boland, Sandra van Dulmen, Janneke Noordman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Both patients in the palliative phase of their disease and patients with limited health literacy (LHL) have an increased risk of being influenced by healthcare providers (HCPs) when making decisions. This study aims to explore to what extent persuasive communication occurs during shared decision-making (SDM) by (1) providing an overview of persuasive communication behaviours relevant for medical decision-making and (2) exemplifying these using real-life outpatient consultations.

METHODS: An exploratory qualitative design was applied: (1) brief literature review; (2) analysis of verbatim extracts from outpatient consultations and stimulated recall sessions with HCPs; and (3) stakeholder meetings.

RESULTS: 24 different persuasive communication behaviours were identified, which can be divided in seven categories: biased presentation of information, authoritative framing, probability framing, illusion of decisional control, normative framing, making assumptions and using emotions or feelings.

CONCLUSIONS: Persuasive communication is multi-faceted in outpatient consultations. Although undesirable, it may prove useful in specific situations making it necessary to study the phenomenon more in depth and deepen our understanding of its mechanisms and impact.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Awareness among HCPs about the use of persuasive communication needs to be created through training and education. Also, HCPs need help in providing balanced information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1130-1137
Number of pages8
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number5
Early online date25 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • COPD
  • Cancer
  • Communication
  • Healthcare providers
  • Limited health literacy
  • Oncology
  • Palliative care
  • Patients
  • Persuasion
  • Qualitative research
  • Shared decision-making

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