Invite, listen, and summarize: a patient-centered communication technique

Acad Med. 2005 Jan;80(1):29-32. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200501000-00008.


The need for physicians to have patient-centered communication skills is reflected in the educational objectives of numerous medical schools' curricula and in the competencies required by groups such as the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. An innovative method for teaching communications skills has been developed at the University of Colorado School of Medicine as part of its three-year, longitudinal course focusing on basic clinical skills required of all physicians. The method emphasizes techniques of open-ended inquiry, empathy, and engagement to gather data. Students refer to the method as ILS, or Invite, Listen, and Summarize. ILS was developed to combat the high-physician-control interview techniques, characterized by a series of "yes" or "no" questions. The authors began teaching the ILS approach in 2001 as one basic exercise and have since developed a two-year longitudinal communications curriculum. ILS is easy to use and remember, and it emphasizes techniques that have been shown in other studies to achieve the three basic functions of the medical interview: creating rapport, collecting good data, and improving compliance. The skills are taught using standardized patients in a series of four small-group exercises. Videotaped standardized patient encounters are used to evaluate the students. Tutors come from a variety of disciplines and receive standardized training. The curriculum has been well received. Despite the fact that the formal curriculum only occurs in the first two years, there is some evidence that it is improving students' interviewing skills at the end of their third year.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication*
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*