AIM: To use signposting phrases to structure the consultation and engage the patient.

INTRODUCTION: Signposting is a useful way for a doctor to give structure to a consultation. For example in this video, the doctor says “We’ll talk about options later on. Would you tell me a bit more about your back pain?” This indicates to the patient that he has heard her request, but allows him to shift the topic to get the information he currently needs. Signposting helps the patient understand the direction the consultation is going in and why, and allows doctors to share their thoughts and needs with the patient.

Signposting can be used at different stages of the consultation:

  • To transition from the introduction to the information-gathering stage
    • OK, can you tell me how it started?
  • To outline the sequence of the consultation
    • First, we'll talk about your pain, then I will examine you, and then we can talk about ways to treat the problem.
  • To transition from one topic to another
    • Now that we’ve identified the problem, we can discuss treatment options.
  • To explain a certain line of questioning
    • Because this condition can be hereditary, I’d like to find out about your family history.
  • To ask permission
    • Is it OK if I ask you some questions about your lifestyle?
  • To warn about sensitive questioning
    • I need to ask you some personal questions if that’s alright.
  • To begin the closure of the consultation
    • I think I have everything I need …

A simple phrase which can work to break up a long list of questions or a long explanation, is simply to say “OK, so …”

INSTRUCTIONS: Create a range of sentences using phrases from all three columns. Practise saying all the different combinations. 

  Let me

  ask you about

  a few issues

  Can I

  start with

  your general health

  I need to


  your lifestyle

  I’d like to

  go back to

  your family history

  I’m going to

  move on to

  some other possibilities

  Is it OK if I

  look at

  your test results

  I want to


  your symptoms

  What I’d like to do is

  find out about

  some options for treatment

  May I


  your present condition




Watch the other videos on this site and notice how the doctors use signposting to structure their consultations. Make note of the way they do it, and try to incorporate these strategies into your own consultations.