Context: Significant shortcomings have been noted in the literature in communication skills training for practising doctors. Given the importance of competent communication to the doctor-patient relationship and health care in general, these shortcomings should be addressed in future research.
Objective: Research into physician communication skills training is examined with respect to the communication objectives and behaviours that are addressed.
Methods: A Medline search of literature from 1990 to the present was conducted.
Results: A total of 26 studies of doctor communication skills training were found. The majority of studies included insufficient information about the communication behaviours taught to participants. In several studies, there was a mismatch between stated behaviours and instruments or procedures used to assess them.
Conclusion: Three recommendations are suggested. Firstly, future researchers should take greater care in matching assessment instruments with stated communication skills. Secondly, researchers should provide and use a theoretical framework for selecting communication skills to address in interventions, and thirdly, the timing of communication skills within the interview context should be part of the instruction in interventions.