Etiquette-based communication

Do internal medicine interns practice etiquette-based communication? A critical look at the inpatient encounter.
J Hosp Med. 2013 Nov;8(11):631-4.
Block L, Hutzler L, Habicht R, Wu AW, Desai SV, Novello Silva K, Niessen T, Oliver N, Feldman L.
Etiquette-based communication may improve the inpatient experience but is not universally practiced. We sought to determine the extent to which internal medicine interns practice behaviors that characterize etiquette-based medicine. Trained observers evaluated the use of 5 key communication strategies by internal medicine interns during inpatient clinical encounters: introducing one’s self, explaining one’s role in the patient’s care, touching the patient, asking open-ended questions, and sitting down with the patient. Participants at 1 site then completed a survey estimating how frequently they performed each of the observed behaviors. A convenience sample of 29 interns was observed on a total of 732 patient encounters. Overall, interns introduced themselves 40% of the time and explained their role 37% of the time. Interns touched patients on 65% of visits, asked open-ended questions on 75% of visits, and sat down with patients during 9% of visits. Interns at 1 site estimated introducing themselves and their role and sitting with patients significantly more frequently than was observed (80% vs 40%, P < 0.01; 80% vs 37%, P < 0.01; and 58% vs 9%, P < 0.01, respectively). Resident physicians introduced themselves to patients, explained their role, and sat down with patients infrequently during observed inpatient encounters. Residents surveyed tended to overestimate their own practice of etiquette-based medicine.

journalistic version:
5 Simple Habits Can Help Doctors Connect With Patients
January 11, 015

Patient-doctor communication.
Med Clin North Am. 2003 Sep;87(5):1115-45.
Teutsch C.
Communication is an important component of patient care. Traditionally, communication in medical school curricula was incorporated informally as part of rounds and faculty feedback, but without a specific or intense focus on skills of communicating per se. The reliability and consistency of this teaching method left gaps, which are currently getting increased attention from medical schools and accreditation organizations. There is also increased interest in researching patient-doctor communication and recognizing the need to teach and measure this specific clinical skill. In 1999, the Accreditation of Council for Graduate Medical Education implemented a requirement for accreditation for residency programs that focuses on “interpersonal and communications skills that result in effective information exchange and teaming with patients, their families, and other health professionals.” The National Board of Medical Examiners, Federation of State Medical Boards. and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates have proposed an examination between the. third and fourth year of medical school that “requires students to demonstrate they can gather information from patients, perform a physical examination, and communicate their findings to patients and colleagues” using standardized patients. One’s efficiency and effectiveness in communication can be improved through training, but it is unlikely that any future advances will negate the need and value of compassionate and empathetic two-way communication between clinician and patient. The published literature also expresses belief in the essential role of communication. “It has long been recognized that difficulties in the effective delivery of health care can arise from problems in communication between patient and provider rather than from any failing in the technical aspects of medical care. Improvements in provider-patient communication can have beneficial effects on health outcomes”. A systematic review of randomized clinical trials and analytic studies of physician-patient communication confirmed a positive influence of quality communication on health outcomes. Continuing research in this arena is important. For a successful and humanistic encounter at an office visit, one needs to be sure that the patient’s key concerns have been directly and specifically solicited and addressed. To be effective, the clinician must gain an understanding of the patient’s perspective on his or her illness. Patient concerns can be wide ranging, including fear of death, mutilation, disability; ominous attribution to pain symptoms; distrust of the medical profession; concern about loss of wholeness, role, status, or independence; denial of reality of medical problems; grief; fear of leaving home; and other uniquely personal issues. Patient values, cultures, and preferences need to be explored. Gender is another element that needs to be taken into consideration. Ensuring key issues are verbalized openly is fundamental to effective patient-doctor communication. The clinician should be careful not to be judgmental or scolding because this may rapidly close down communication. Sometimes the patient gains therapeutic benefit just from venting concerns in a safe environment with a caring clinician. Appropriate reassurance or pragmatic suggestions to help with problem solving and setting up a structured plan of action may be an important part of the patient care that is required. Counseling around unhealthy or risky behaviors is an important communication skill that should be part of health care visits. Understanding the psychology of behavioral change and establishing a systematic framework for such interventions, which includes the five As of patient counseling (assess, advise, agree, assist, and arrange) are steps toward ensuring effective patient-doctor communication. Historically in medicine, there was a paternalistic approach to deciding what should be done for a patient: the physician knew best and the patient accepted the recommendation without question. This era is ending, being replaced with consumerism and the movement toward shared decision-making. Patients are advising each other to “educate yourself and ask questions”. Patient satisfaction with their care, rests heavily on how successfully this transition is accomplished. Ready access to quality information and thoughtful patient-doctor discussions is at the fulcrum of this revolution.

Assessing competence in communication and interpersonal skills: the Kalamazoo II report.
Acad Med. 2004 Jun;79(6):495-507.
Duffy FD1, Gordon GH, Whelan G, Cole-Kelly K, Frankel R, Buffone N, Lofton S, Wallace M, Goode L, Langdon L; Participants in the American Academy on Physician and Patient’s Conference on Education and Evaluation of Competence in Communication and Interpersonal Skills.
Accreditation of residency programs and certification of physicians requires assessment of competence in communication and interpersonal skills. Residency and continuing medical education program directors seek ways to teach and evaluate these competencies. This report summarizes the methods and tools used by educators, evaluators, and researchers in the field of physician-patient communication as determined by the participants in the “Kalamazoo II” conference held in April 2002. Communication and interpersonal skills form an integrated competence with two distinct parts. Communication skills are the performance of specific tasks and behaviors such as obtaining a medical history, explaining a diagnosis and prognosis, giving therapeutic instructions, and counseling. Interpersonal skills are inherently relational and process oriented; they are the effect communication has on another person such as relieving anxiety or establishing a trusting relationship. This report reviews three methods for assessment of communication and interpersonal skills: (1) checklists of observed behaviors during interactions with real or simulated patients; (2) surveys of patients’ experience in clinical interactions; and (3) examinations using oral, essay, or multiple-choice response questions. These methods are incorporated into educational programs to assess learning needs, create learning opportunities, or guide feedback for learning. The same assessment tools, when administered in a standardized way, rated by an evaluator other than the teacher, and using a predetermined passing score, become a summative evaluation. The report summarizes the experience of using these methods in a variety of educational and evaluation programs and presents an extensive bibliography of literature on the topic. Professional conversation between patients and doctors shapes diagnosis, initiates therapy, and establishes a caring relationship. The degree to which these activities are successful depends, in large part, on the communication and interpersonal skills of the physician. This report focuses on how the physician’s competence in professional conversation with patients might be measured. Valid, reliable, and practical measures can guide professional formation, determine readiness for independent practice, and deepen understanding of the communication itself.

Satisfying the patient, but failing the test.
Acad Med. 2004 Jun;79(6):508-10.
Egener B1, Cole-Kelly K.
Communication experts convened in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2002 to assess current tools that evaluate physician communication skills. They noted occasional discrepancies between a patient’s impression of a physician’s skill and the physician’s performance as measured by current checklists. The authors explore the reasons for this discrepancy and propose a research agenda to resolve it. They maintain that the patient’s evaluation of physician communication skills depends upon the degree to which the patient’s reason for seeking care is satisfied. Since current evaluation tools do not incorporate information to which only the patient has access, they can assess neither the meaning of the interview nor the success of the physician from the patient’s point of view. The authors conclude that physicians’ understanding of how well they are meeting patients’ needs may require competencies that are unmeasured or only partially measured by current assessment tools, such as “flexibility” or “improvisational skills.” These competencies likely reside in the nonverbal domain. The authors suggest that (1) a new tool must be developed that measures the essence, or meaning, of the visit from the patient’s perspective; (2) this tool must incorporate information derived directly from the patient; and (3) research is needed to define those physician and patient behaviors that facilitate meaningful encounters.

Toward patient-centered care: a systematic review of how to ask questions that matter to patients.
Medicine (Baltimore). 2014 Nov;93(22):e120.
Rosenzveig A, Kuspinar A, Daskalopoulou SS, Mayo NE.
Clinicians rarely systematically document how their patients are feeling. Single item questions have been created to help obtain and monitor patient relevant outcomes, a requirement of patient-centered care.The objective of this review was to identify the psychometric properties for single items related to health aspects that only the patient can report (health perception, stress, pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and sleep quality). A secondary objective was to create a bank of valid single items in a format suitable for use in clinical practice.Data sources used were Ovid MEDLINE (1948 to May 2013), EMBASE (1960 to May 2013), and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (1960 to May 2013).For the study appraisal, 24 articles were systematically reviewed. A critical appraisal tool was used to determine the quality of articles.Items were included if they were tested as single items, related to the construct, measured symptom severity, and referred to recent experiences.The psychometric properties of each item were extracted. Validity and reliability was observed for the items when compared with clinical interviews or well-validated measures. The items for general health perception and anxiety showed weak to moderate strength correlations (r = 0.28-0.70). The depression and stress items showed good area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.85 and 0.73-0.88, respectively, with high sensitivity and specificity. The fatigue item demonstrated a strong effect size and correlations up to r = 0.80. The 2 pain items and the sleep item showed high reliability (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] = 0.85, κ = 0.76, ICC = 0.9, respectively).The search targeted articles about psychometric properties of single items. Articles that did not have this as the primary objective may have been missed. Furthermore, not all the articles included had the complete set of psychometric properties for each item.There is sufficient evidence to warrant the use of single items in clinical practice. They are simple, easily implemented, and efficient and thus provide an alternative to multi-item questionnaires. To facilitate their use, the top performing items were combined into the visual analog health states, which provides a quick profile of how the patient is feeling. This information would be useful for regular long-term monitoring.


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