Background and objectives: Graduating medical students will universally use electronic health records (EHRs), yet a June 2007 literature search revealed no descriptions of EHR-specific communication skills curricula in US medical schools. We designed and tested methods to teach first-year medical students to optimally integrate EHRs into physician-patient communication in ambulatory encounters.
Methods: We randomly assigned 17 volunteer students to control (n=8) and intervention (n=9) groups. Both groups learned the mechanics of documenting patient histories using the EHR. Additionally, we taught the intervention group EHR-specific communications skills using guided discovery, brief didactics, and practice role plays. We compared both groups' general and EHR-specific communications skills using a standardized patient (SP) case.
Results: Students receiving EHR communication skills training performed significantly better than controls in six of 10 EHR communication skills. In 10 of 11 general communication skills, there were no significant differences between groups.
Conclusions: First-year medical students can demonstrate EHR communication skills early in their medical training. However, in our setting, students did not spontaneously demonstrate EHR skills without instruction, and such skills did not correlate with general communication skills.