Objectives: The development of patient-centred attitudes by health care providers is critical to improving health care quality. A prior study showed that medical students with more patient-centred attitudes scored higher in communication skills as judged by standardised patients (SPs) than students with less patient-centred attitudes. We designed this multicentre study to examine the relationships among students' demographic characteristics, patient-centredness and communication scores on an SP examination.
Methods: Early Year 4 medical students at three US schools completed a 12-item survey during an SP examination. Survey items addressed demographics (gender, ethnicity, primary childhood language) and patient-centredness. Factor analysis on the patient-centredness items defined specific patient-centred attitudes. We used multiple regression analysis incorporating demographic characteristics, school and patient-centredness items and examined the effect of these variables on the outcome variable of communication score.
Results: A total of 351 students took the SP examination and 329 (94%) completed the patient-centredness questionnaire. Responses indicated generally high patient-centredness. Student ethnicity and medical school were significantly associated with communication scores; gender and primary childhood language were not. Two attitudinal factors were identified: patient perspective and impersonal attitude. Multiple regression analysis revealed that school and scores on the impersonal factor were associated with communication scores. The effect size was modest.
Conclusions: In a medical student SP examination, modest differences in communication scores based on ethnicity were observed and can be partially explained by student attitudes regarding patient-centredness. Curricular interventions to enhance clinical experiences, teaching and feedback are needed to address key elements of a patient-centred approach to care.