Our study aimed to describe and evaluate the applicability of the critical incident technique (CIT) in qualitatively identifying the health-related outcomes of professional–patient communication. We described and evaluated the applicability of the CIT by analyzing previous CIT studies in the field of multidisciplinary health research, as well as conducting a study in which the CIT was applied. We based our description and evaluation on the qualitative research model developed by Carter and Little (2007). Our evaluation showed that in addition to defining the critical requirements of professional–patient communication in relation to specific outcomes, the CIT could be applied in defining the significance of the multidimensional nature of professional–patient communication. However, the successful use of the CIT requires correct epistemological, methodological, and method-related choices regarding the CIT’s application in the research frame and the type of information sought.


qualitative research, research methodology, critical incident technique, research evaluation, professional–patient communication, patient education, professional education

Author Bio(s)

Maija Peltola (corresponding author) is a Ph.D. student of communication studies at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences, Tampere University, Finland. Please direct correspondence to maija.peltola@tuni.fi.

Pekka Isotalus, Ph.D. is a professor of communication studies at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences, Tampere University, Finland.

Päivi Åstedt-Kurki, Ph.D. is a professor emerita of nursing science at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Finland.


The manuscript is part of the first author’s doctoral studies which have been supported by the Tampere University (Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences), the Pirkanmaa Regional Fund of Finnish Cultural Foundation (Grant 50141591), Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation (Grant 00180286), the Finnish Diabetes Association and Tampere City Science Grants Committee.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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