Objective: To test the hypothesis that a 20-h communication skills course based on the Four Habits model can improve doctor-patient communication among hospital employed doctors across specialties.
Methods: Crossover randomized controlled trial in a 500-bed hospital with interventions at different time points in the two arms. Assessments were video-based and blinded. Intervention consisted of 20 h of communication training, containing alternating plenary with theory/debriefs and practical group sessions with role-plays tailored to each doctor.
Results: Of 103 doctors asked to participate, 72 were included, 62 received the intervention, 51 were included in the main analysis, and another six were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. We found an increase in the Four Habits Coding Scheme of 7.5 points (p = 0.01, 95% confidence interval 1.6-13.3), fairly evenly distributed on subgroups. Baseline score (SD) was 60.3 (9.9). Global patient satisfaction did not change, neither did average encounter duration.
Conclusion: Utilizing an outpatient-clinic training model developed in the US, we demonstrated that a 20-h course could be generalized across medical and national cultures, indicating improvement of communication skills among hospital doctors.
Practice implications: The Four Habits model is suitable for communication-training courses in hospital settings. Doctors across specialties can attend the same course.
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