Patient-centered interviewing and student performance in a comprehensive clinical skills examination: is there an association?

Emran Rouf, Heidi Chumley, Alison Dobbie
Patient Education and Counseling 2009, 75 (1): 11-5

OBJECTIVE: Communication skills, including patient-centered interviewing (PCI), have become a major priority for educational and licensing organizations in the United States. While patient-centered interviewing is associated with positive patient outcomes and improved diagnostic accuracy, it is unknown if an association exists between patient-centered interviewing and student performance in high-stakes clinical skills assessment (CSA) examinations. The purpose of this study was to determine if generic communication skills and patient-centered interviewing skills were associated with students' overall student performance on a multi-station clinical skills assessment (CSA) examination.

METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study to assess student performance with standardized patients (SPs). We conducted a retrospective review of 30 videotaped SP encounters of Third year medical students (class of 2006) at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. We measured correlations between observed PCI scores, overall CSA scores and CSA interpersonal and communication (ICS) skills scores of student-SP encounters.

RESULTS: PCI scores, as measured with the Four Habits Coding Scheme, a measurement tool of patient-centered communication, were not correlated with either overall CSA scores or ICS scores. Students' PCI scores were lower than the ICS scores (57% vs. 85% of correct items). The students performed poorly (30% mean score of correct items) in eliciting patient perspectives, compared to three other domains (Invest in the beginning, Demonstrate empathy, and Invest in end) of patient-centered interviewing.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study failed to demonstrate any association between student performance and patient-centered interviewing skills (PCI) in the setting of a comprehensive in-house CSA examination. Third-year medical students in our study did not practice some elements of patient-centered interviewing.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Given the increasing importance of patient-centered communication, the high-stakes in-house clinical skills examinations may consider assessing patient-centered interviewing using a more comprehensive and valid checklist.

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