Communications training leads to better medical student performance, according to new study

Comprehensive training in doctor-patient communications significantly improved the ability of medical students to understand and address patients' needs, according to a study in the September 3rd issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We believe this study establishes that the systematic teaching of communication skills is critical to effective and humane healthcare delivery," said Michael Yedidia, Ph.D, of New York University's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the study's senior author. "We're hopeful that our tools for measuring communications competence will be useful to other schools for teaching as well as evaluation purposes."

The study, performed at three medical schools, found that comprehensive communications training had a significant impact on student performance in other areas as well, including working with the patient to devise a mutually agreeable treatment plan, developing and maintaining an effective doctor-patient relationship, and bringing the visit to a meaningful close.

The NYU School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School participated in the study. Mack Lipkin, M.D., of NYU and Aaron Lazare, M.D. at the University of Massachusetts, were the principal investigators of the overall project, which was funded by a grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

The study compared 138 randomly-selected third-year students in 1999-2000 who did not participate in a specialized curriculum, with 155 third-year students in 2000-2001 who did.

"We are committed to this work," said Dr. Lipkin, a pioneer in teaching communications skills, "because we know from prior studies that communication is one of the most important medical skills, that better skills lead to improved health and quality of care, and that both doctors and patients feel better and heal better when they talk with each oth

Contact: Josh Taylor
New York University

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