Background: The pivotal role of doctor-patient communication in effective health care delivery led the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) to incorporate the assessment of interpersonal skills and spoken English proficiency into its Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA). Furthermore, it was decided that to pass the CSA, a candidate would need to meet or surpass defined performance standards for doctor-patient communication as a discrete component. This requirement, among others, is designed to ensure the readiness of graduates of foreign medical schools (FMGs) to enter postgraduate medical education programmes in the United States.
Objective: The primary focus of this study was to determine the extent to which performance in a simulated testing environment is related to performance in the clinical setting.
Method: Nurses were trained to rate the communication skills of residents from the patient's perspective. A total of 43 first-year residents were evaluated. The survey ratings (n=225) were compared with the residents' CSA communication scores.
Results: Corrected correlations between CSA ratings and those obtained from nurses ranged from 0.61 to 0.73.
Conclusion: This study provides evidence for the validity of the communication ratings provided by standardized patients. The reasonably strong associations between ratings obtained during testing and those obtained through observation of 'real' patient interactions suggest that external observers can provide accurate evaluations of doctor-patient communication.