Communicating with Health Care Providers: A Peer-to-Peer Approach


Scientific exchange was recognized as both a need and an opportunity in the early history of medicine and other health care fields such as psychology and nursing. In most contexts and situations, peer-to-peer scientific exchange aims at advancing medical practices and advocating for the application of new standards of care. An everyday example of scientific exchange is the role of mentors, such as senior physicians and head nurses, who train or advise younger health care practitioners on different areas.

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Professional medical communication

The concept of scientific exchange can be traced to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician who is considered the father of modern medicine. Hippocrates, a prolific writer of his ideas and findings, “recommended that physicians record their findings and their medicinal methods, so that these records may be passed down and employed by other physicians”. Professional medical communication has evolved from the concept of scientific exchange as a peer-to-peer communication approach directed to physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and all other health care providers, as shown in Table 7.1.

Responsible for administering health care

Professional medical communication can be defined as the application of health communication theories, models, and practices to programs that seek to influence the behavior and the social context of these professionals directly responsible for administering health care. In other words, it is the process of planning, executing, and evaluating communication programs intended for health care providers. In professional communications, the concept of peer describes professionals with similar education, training, and overall capacity.


Some peers who are recognized by their community as thought leaders in a field or on a health issue tend to take the lead in communicating with other physicians or nurses about new information in their area of competence. Other times, professional associations and other organizations, which may be responsible for setting new standards of care or keeping their membership up to date on recent medical and scientific progress, act as peer leaders in a communication effort.

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