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