Effectiveness of a learner-centred training programme for primary care physicians in using a patient-centred consultation style

R R Moral, M M Alamo, M A Jurado, L P de Torres
Family Practice 2001, 18 (1): 60-3

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present study was to find out if a training programme adapted to family physicians with several years of clinical experience changes their behaviour when they deal with fibromyalgic patients in the sense of introducing the communication skills that define the 'patient-centred' approach.

METHODS: A randomized, and simple blind, educative study was carried out. Twenty full-time family physicians were invited to participate. They were allocated randomly to two groups: an intervention and a control group. A total of 110 patients were recruited from people attending physicians' surgeries for the first time and who complained of generalized pain that finally fulfilled criteria for generalized musculoskeletal chronic pain/fibromyalgia. This was done for an entire year. The intervention group received an 18 hour intensive course. One week after the course, all doctors carried out a video-recorded encounter with a patient who played the part of a typical fibromyalgia clinical case. The interviews were coded by an observer blind to the training status of the participants, using the GATHARES-CP questionnaire. All patients were contacted by telephone during a 1-2-month period by a different interviewer who was 'blinded' to the patient's experimental status. They were asked to respond to three questions that represent the key components of patient-centred style.

RESULTS: The average score on the GATHARES-CP questionnaire was 11.3 +/- 0.9 and 9 +/- 2.3, for doctors from the intervention and control groups, respectively (P < 0.01). For 11 items, scores were higher in the intervention group. The patients' answers to all three questions showed statistically significant differences in a positive direction for the trained doctors.

CONCLUSIONS: The doctors improved the use of strategies and skills for carrying out patient-centred consultations after they had received an interactive course. The doctors' behaviour appeared to have changed as much in a more experimental situation as in the actual consultations. Moreover, the gain was observed immediately after the intervention was completed, and after having run for a variable period of time up to 1 year.

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