Objective: Physicians need good communication skills to communicate effectively with patients. The objective of this review was to identify effective training strategies for teaching communication skills to qualified physicians.
Methods: PubMED, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and COCHRANE were searched in October 2008 and in March 2009. Two authors independently selected relevant reviews and assessed their methodological quality with AMSTAR. Summary tables were constructed for data-synthesis, and results were linked to outcome measures. As a result, conclusions about the effectiveness of communication skills training strategies for physicians could be drawn.
Results: Twelve systematic reviews on communication skills training programmes for physicians were identified. Some focused on specific training strategies, whereas others emphasized a more general approach with mixed strategies. Training programmes were effective if they lasted for at least one day, were learner-centred, and focused on practising skills. The best training strategies within the programmes included role-play, feedback, and small group discussions.
Conclusion: Training programmes should include active, practice-oriented strategies. Oral presentations on communication skills, modelling, and written information should only be used as supportive strategies.
Practice implications: To be able to compare the effectiveness of training programmes more easily in the future, general agreement on outcome measures has to be established.
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