Enhancing clinician communication skills in a large healthcare organization: a longitudinal case study

Patient Educ Couns. 2005 Jul;58(1):4-12. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2005.01.014.


Objective: This article describes the approach taken over the past 16 years by one large healthcare organization, Kaiser Permanente (KP), to enhance the clinical communication and relationship skills of their clinicians.

Methods: The centerpiece of KP's approach has been the creation and dissemination of a unifying clinician-patient communication (CPC) framework for teaching and research called the Four Habits Model.

Results: The Model has served as the foundation for a diverse array of KP programs. Sustained improvement in patient satisfaction scores has been demonstrated. Clinician-patient communication training has become a well-established component of professional development in KP.

Discussion: Enhancing clinicians' communication with patients is a complex task requiring planning and organizational commitment. Factors that have contributed to the success and lessons learned from incorporating clinician communication skills across the organization are described.

Conclusion: The KP experience attests to the feasibility of bringing the vital skills of effective communication to large numbers of busy clinicians.

Practice implications: Healthcare practices wishing to enhance clinician-patient communication skills should consider using a consistent teaching model, ensuring strong sponsorship from leaders, and emphasizing clinician satisfaction in the design of programs.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Communication*
  • Competency-Based Education
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / organization & administration*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Medical Staff / education*
  • Medical Staff / psychology
  • Models, Organizational
  • Needs Assessment
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Time Factors