Flip No. 4

Use communication cards in the clinic

A deck of cards invites patients to speak openly about their concerns.

By Flip the Clinic

When patients feel fear, embarrassment or resistance at the doctor’s office, their emotions can impede the conversations that lead to better health. But for providers, untangling patient motivations during the visit can use up valuable time. To help remove the barriers blocking open communication, clinics can give patients aids to help promote communication.

When placed in the waiting room, a deck of cards printed with emotional prompts gives patients an opportunity to collect their thoughts before seeing a physician.

Each card’s prompt falls within a certain theme, like frustration, relief, or nervousness. The cards that resonate with the patient should be brought into the exam room for discussion.

The benefits of this strategy are three-fold. First, the patient is given the space and the time to consider their feelings without prodding from a care provider. Because the cards are provided by the clinic, they also give the patient official permission to talk openly about implicit concerns. And lastly, the cards offer a different mode of interaction that helps draw out common obstacles to better care.


We were lucky enough to track the conversation cards through a few clinics and a patient advocate. Check out their experiences below!

Case Study: Patient

When Lupus patient, Tiffany Peterson, first heard of Flip the Clinic, she was ready to take on the challenge of being a patient advocating for system change through her role as a patient facing complex chronic condition management.

Receiving a set of the Communication Cards from Flip the Clinic, Tiffany loved the idea of having the prompts to have the tough conversations and immediately tucked them in her purse for her next appointment.

Sitting in the waiting room a few weeks later, she went through the cards and lined up a handful of them that helped describe some of her latest symptoms and concerns. Reflecting on a tough interaction at the last appointment, the cards helped Tiffany feel heard and connected to her care team again.

"I cannot wait to use these again in the future!"

Case Study: Clinic

When the Children's Integrated Center for Success (CICS) first heard of Flip the Clinic, they requested one of the Flip the Clinic Toolbox's originally offered to sites in 2014.

Holding the conversation cards in hand, "felt like someone was working in the office with me and understood what we needed," CEO and Founder, Amy Edgar, reflected.

"We work with young patients facing anxiety or even autism, on top of their regular nervous nature coming to a clinic for an appointment," Amy continued, "these cards offered us a bright visual to guide their conversation with us."

Patients were offered a few minutes of relaxation time before therapy began and given the cards to consider, if they wanted. A prompt was offered to pick one or two that the patient felt matched what they were thinking about today or when they were getting ready to come to CICS. If they chose to pick out a few, the clinician would review the prompts and offer a conversation by guiding the patient through a discussion about why each card was selected.

"The first five times I used the communication cards with patients and their families, we had huge breakthroughs. We discussed goal setting with the patient in new ways. We took great strides in describing fear or worry in a new way. These cards are a huge success and I'm getting more sets printed for CICS."

Flip Cards

Flip Cards image


  • LeAnne

    Sometimes people just need that little push to share and these cards could be just what is needed.

  • Karen Fitzpatrick

    Who disinfects them?

  • Intake.me

    On our biweekly #patientchats, we’ve talked to patients about their input on how they prepare for a doctor’s visit. Here’s a collaboratively produced patient checklist we created with empowered patient input: http://blog.intake.me/the-empowered-patient-checklist-for-doctor-visits-free-pdf-download/

  • Julia Hallisy

    Providers could encourage their patients to prepare for visits using Patient Participation Forms from The Empowered Patient Coalition http://empoweredpatientcoalition.org/publications/patient-participation-forms. Our forms help patient prepare for their outpatient visits and provide a a visit summary that the patient or their advocate can complete – hopefully with assistance and enthusiastic support from their provider.

    • marwa saleh

      Hi Julia, I’m a family medicine resident and wanted to know how can we get permission to use these forms, as part of a quality improvement research project in our clinic? working with mainly Latino patients and will be translating this to Spanish. Thanks!
      please email me marwa096@gmail.com, great resources! -marwa

  • T SS

    where can I purchase these cards?

    • Whitney Bowman-Zatzkin

      No purchase necessary! We have a “download pdf” link posted above and the file is set up for printing on your local printer. If you’d like a more durable version, you can take them to your local print shop and they will have the art file they need. If you have a specific request to include your logo or something like that, don’t hesitate to reach out to info@fliptheclinic.org and we will get the art files needed sent over to you.

  • Student

    I believe these cards could really be a good thing. I am one of those who become very nervous before going in to see the doctor and then forget everything I was going to say. The card would definitely help a person to feel a little more at ease by helping the care provider to have insight into what a patient is feeling and making necessary adjustments. I plan on trying these at my current work place. Thank your for the download link!