Objective: To determine if a communication skills training program for general practitioners involving context-rich learning experiences and 'peer review' of consultation transcripts results in communication skills acquisition and maintenance, while preserving time-efficiency in consultations.
Methods: A pre-test-post-test evaluation of training 20 general practitioners (GPs) in enhanced communication skills. Audio taped consultations with simulated patients in routine practice conducted before, within 2 weeks and again 6 months after communication skills training were analysed and consultation length measured. Transcripts were scored for specific skills to determine differences in short and longer-term competence of GPs for the communication skills.
Results: There was good evidence that GPs acquired key communication skills after training and that these were maintained over 6 months. Consultations remained within normal consultation length in primary care.
Conclusion: Specific communication skills for acute bronchitis can be successfully acquired by GPs through context-rich communication training with peer review of transcripts with simulated patients, without making consultation length unfeasible.
Practice implications: This approach to skill acquisition is useful for enhancing communication skills competence in general medical practice.