Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Tools for the Patient Presentation

Tools and resources for preparing a patient presentation

Sources & Further Reading

First Aid for the Wards

Lingard L, Haber RJ.  Teaching and learning communications in medicine: a rhetorical approach.  Academic Medicine. 74(5):507-510 1999 May.

Lingard L, Haber RJ.  What do we mean by "relevance"? A clinical and rhetorical definition with implications for teaching and learning the case-presentation format. Academic Medicine. 74(10):S124-S127.

The Oral Presentation (A Practical Guide to Clinical Medicine, UCSD School of Medicine)

The Formal Patient Presentation

"Classically, the formal oral presentation is given in 7 minutes or less. Although it follows the same format as a written report, it is not simply regurgitation. A great presentation requires style as much as substance; your delivery must be succinct and smooth. No time should be wasted on superfluous information; one can read about such matters later in your admit note. Ideally, your presentation should be formulated so that your audience can anticipate your assessment and plan; that is, each piece of information should clue the listener into your thinking process and your most likely diagnosis."  [Le, et al, p. 15]

Types of Patient Presentations

New Patient

New patients get the traditional H&P with assessment and plan.  Give the chief complaint and a brief and pertinent HPI.  Next give important PMH, PSH, etc.  The ROS is often left out, as anything important was in the HPI.  The PE is reviewed.  Only give pertinent positives and negatives.  The assessment and plan should include what you think is wrong and, briefly, why.  Then, state what you plan to do for the patient, including labs.  Be sure to know why things are being done: you will be asked.


The follow-up presentation differs from the presentation of a new patient.  It is an abridged presentation, perhaps referencing major patient issues that have been previously presented, but focusing on new information about these issues and/or what has changed. Give the patient’s name, age, date of admission, briefly review the present illness, physical examination and admitting diagnosis.  Then report any new finding, laboratory tests, diagnostic procedures and changes in medications.


The attending physician will ask the patient’s permission to have the medical student present their case.  After making the proper introductions the attending will let the patient know they may offer input or ask questions at any point.  When presenting at bedside the student should try to involve the patient.

Preparing for the Presentation

There are four things you must consider before you do your oral presentation

  1. Message
  2. Audience
  3. Purpose
  4. Occasion (setting and circumstances)

Ask yourself what do you want the presentation to do

  1. Present a new patient to your preceptor: the amount of detail will be determined by your preceptor.  It is also likely to reflect your development and experience, with less detail being required as you progress.
  2. Present your patient at working or teaching rounds: the amount of detail will be determined by the customs of the group. The focus of the presentation will be influenced by the learning objectives of working responsibilities of the group.
  3. Request a consultant’s advice on a clinical problem: the presentation will be focused on the clinical question being posed to the consultant.
  4. Persuade others about a diagnosis and plan: a shorter presentation which highlights the pertinent positives and negatives that are germane to the diagnosis and/or plan being suggested.
  5. Enlist cooperation required for patient care: a short presentation focusing on the impact your audience can have in addressing the patient’s issues.


  1. Patient evaluation: history, physical examination, review of tests, studies, procedures, and consultants’ recommendations.
  2. Selected reading: reference texts; to build a foundational understanding.
  3. Literature search: for further elucidation of any key references from selected reading, and to bring your understanding up to date, since reference text information is typically three to seven years old.
  4. Write-up: for oral presentation, just succinct notes to serve as a reminder or reference, since you’re not going to be reading your presentation.

Knowledge (Be prepared to answer questions about the following)

  1. Etiology
  2. Pathophysiology
  3. Diagnosis
  4. Complications
  5. Differential diagnosis
  6. Course of conditions
  7. Treatment
  8. Diagnostic tests
  9. Medications


  1. Ovid
  2. Pub Med
  3. Essential Evidence Plus
  4. DXplain
  5. MD Consult

Template for Oral Presentations

Chief Complaint (CC)

The opening statement should give an overview of the patient, age, sex, reason for visit and the duration of the complaint. Give marital status, race, or occupation if relevant.  If your patient has a history of a major medical problem that bears strongly on the understanding of the present illness, include it.  For ongoing care, give a one sentence recap of the history.

History of Present Illness (HPI)

This will be very similar to your written HPI. Present the most important problem first. If there is more than one problem, treat each separately. Present the information chronologically.  Cover one system before going onto the next. Characterize the chief complaint – quality, severity, location, duration, progression, and include pertinent negatives. Items from the ROS that are unrelated to the present problem may be mentioned in passing unless you are doing a very formal presentation. When you do your first patient presentation you may be expected to go into detail.  For ongoing care, present any new complaints.

Review of Systems (ROS)

Most of the ROS is incorporated at the end of the HPI. Items that are unrelated to the present problem may be briefly mentioned.  For ongoing care, present only if new complaints. 

Past Medical History (PMH)

Discuss other past medical history that bears directly on the current medical problem.  For ongoing care, have the information available to respond to questions.

Past Surgical History

Provide names of procedures, approximate dates, indications, any relevant findings or complications, and pathology reports, if applicable.  For ongoing care, have the information available to respond to questions.


Present all current medications along with dosage, route and frequency. For the follow-up presentation just give any changes in medication.  For ongoing care, note any changes.

Smoking and Alcohol (and any other substance abuse)

Note frequency and duration. For ongoing care, have the information available to respond to questions.

Social/Work History

Home, environment, work status and sexual history.  For ongoing care, have the information available to respond to questions.

Family History
Note particular family history of genetically based diseases.  For ongoing care, have the information available to respond to questions.

Physical Exam/Labs/Other Tests

Include all significant abnormal findings and any normal findings that contribute to the diagnosis. Give a brief, general description of the patient including physical appearance. Then describe vital signs touching on each major system. Try to find out in advance how thorough you need to be for your presentation. There are times when you will be expected to give more detail on each physical finding, labs and other test results.  For ongoing care, mention only further positive findings and relevant negative findings.

Assessment and Plan

Give a summary of the important aspects of the history, physical exam and formulate the differential diagnosis. Make sure to read up on the patient’s case by doing a search of the literature. 


  1. Include only the most essential facts; but be ready to answer ANY questions about all aspects of your patient.
  2. Keep your presentation lively.
  3. Do not read the presentation!
  4. Expect your listeners to ask questions.
  5. Follow the order of the written case report.
  6. Keep in mind the limitation of your listeners.
  7. Beware of jumping back and forth between descriptions of separate problems.
  8. Use the presentation to build your case.
  9. Your reasoning process should help the listener consider a differential diagnosis.
  10. Present the patient as well as the illness.