Effectiveness of a short course in clinical communication skills for hospital doctors: results of a crossover randomized controlled trial (ISRCTN22153332)

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Aug;84(2):163-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.08.028. Epub 2010 Nov 2.


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.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Coding / standards
  • Clinical Competence* / standards
  • Communication*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Hospital Bed Capacity, 500 and over
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Videotape Recording

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN22153332