Making better doctors: a survey of premedical interns working as health coaches

J Cancer Educ. 2014 Mar;29(1):167-74. doi: 10.1007/s13187-013-0565-y.


We operate a decision support program in a medical center in San Francisco. In this program, postbaccalaureate, premedical interns deliver decision and communication, aids to patients. We asked whether working in this program helped these premedical interns develop key physician competencies. To measure physician competencies, we adopted the standards of the Accreditation Committee on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which accredits residency programs in the USA. The ACGME competencies are patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice. We developed a survey for our program alumni to rate themselves on a scale from 0 (none) to 100 (perfect) on each competency, before and after their time in our program. The survey also solicited free-text comments regarding each competency. In June 2012, we e-mailed all 47 alumni a link to our online survey and then analyzed responses received by July 15, 2012. We visually explored the distributions of ratings and compared medians. We selected the most specific and concrete comments from the qualitative responses. Respondents (21/47 or 45%) reported that their participation in Decision Services increased their competencies across the board. Qualitative comments suggest that this is because students accompanied patients on their clinic journeys (seeing multiple facets of the systems of care) while also actively facilitating patient physician communication. Providing decision support can improve self-ratings of crucial physician competencies. Educators should consider deploying premedical and medical students as decision support coaches to increase competencies through experiential learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Communication
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Education, Premedical / standards*
  • Humans
  • Mentors*
  • Patient Care*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Problem-Based Learning / standards*
  • San Francisco
  • Students, Premedical*