Effective communication between physicians and their patients is important in optimizing patient care. This project tested a brief, intensive, interactive medical education intervention using coaching and standardized psychiatric patients to teach physician–patient communication to family medicine trainees.
Twenty-six family medicine trainees (9 PGY1, 11 PGY2, 6 fellows) from five university-affiliated hospitals conducted four once-weekly, 30-minute videotaped interviews with “difficult” standardized patients. After each interview, trainees received 1 hour of individual coaching that incorporated self-assessment and skills-teaching from experienced psychiatrists. Two follow-up interviews with standardized patients occurred 1 week and an average of 6 months post-intervention. Trainee self-reported physician–patient communication efficacy was measured as a control 1 month before the intervention; during the month of the intervention; and an average of 6 months after the intervention. Coach-rated physician–patient communication competence was measured each week of the intervention.
Improvements in physician–patient communication were demonstrated. Self-efficacy for physician–patient communication improved significantly during the intervention, in contrast to no improvement during the control period (i.e., training-as-usual). This improvement was sustained during the follow-up period.
This innovative educational intervention was shown to be highly effective in improving trainee communication competence and self-efficacy. Future applications of this brief model of physician training have potential to improve communication competence and, in turn, can improve patient care.