Original Publication
Open Access

The Patient Encounter: Asking Difficult Questions

Published: March 13, 2007 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.540

Included in this publication:

  • The Patient Encounter.ppt
  • Conversation 1.doc
  • Conversation 2.doc
  • Crum Handout.mdi
  • Do Ask Do Tell Article.pdf
  • Facilitator's Guide.doc
  • IPV Handout.mdi
  • Kern Article.pdf
  • Sexual History Handout.mdi

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


Medical student and interns often have difficulty providing care for, and communicating with, patients with mental health concerns. To address this we created this 1-hour interactive session. The PowerPoint presentation, handouts, and scripts for two role-play scenarios are provided. The lecture presents the components, and stresses the importance, of the doctor-patient relationship and focuses on areas that doctors and patients often find difficult to discuss, including: (1) screening for and discussing sexual orientation, (2) intimate partner violence, (3) mood, (4) memory, (5) substance use/abuse, and 6) financial barriers. An additional focus of this presentation is of the particular difficulties international medical graduates may face in both establishing relationships with their patients, and asking difficult questions. By demonstrating the importance of communication with our patients, and providing handouts on language and tools to use in discussing sensitive topics, we intend to improve the comfort and the performance of participants, and thereby to improve the patient care they provide.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this session, the learner will be able to:

  1. Establish the importance of patient-doctor communication.
  2. Describe the elements of patient-doctor communication.
  3. Explore areas of communication that are difficult or uncomfortable for patients and doctors.
  4. Utilize appropriate language and tools in screening for and discussing the sensitive topics of sexual orientation, intimate partner violence, mood, memory, substance use/abuse, and financial barriers.

Author Information

  • Kristin HahnCover, MD: University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine

None to report.

None to report.


Hahn-Cover K. The patient encounter: asking difficult questions. MedEdPORTAL. 2007;3:540. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.540