More than words: how multimodal analysis can inform health professions education

Christen Rachul*, Lara Varpio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The contexts and methods for communicating in healthcare and health professions education (HPE) profoundly affect how we understand information, relate to others, and construct our identities. Multimodal analysis provides a method for exploring how we communicate using multiple modes—e.g., language, gestures, images—in concert with each other and within specific contexts. In this paper, we demonstrate how multimodal analysis helps us investigate the ways our communication practices shape healthcare and HPE. We provide an overview of the theoretical underpinnings, traditions, and methodologies of multimodal analysis. Then, we illustrate how to design and conduct a study using one particular approach to multimodal analysis, multimodal (inter)action analysis, using examples from a study focused on clinical reasoning and patient documentation. Finally, we suggest how multimodal analysis can be used to address a variety of HPE topics and contexts, highlighting the unique contributions multimodal analysis can offer to our field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1097
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Health informatics
  • Multimodal (inter)action analysis
  • Multimodal analysis
  • Sociomateriality


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