Problem: Physicians must be competent in several different kinds of communication skills in order to implement shared decision making; however, these skills are not part of routine medical student education, nor are they formally taught during residency training.
Intervention: We developed a 1- and 2-hour workshop curriculum for internal medicine residents to promote shared decision making in treatment decisions for four common chronic conditions: diabetes, depression, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. The workshops included a written case exercise, a short didactic presentation on shared decision-making concepts and strategies for risk communication, and two role-playing exercises focused on decision making for depression and hyperlipidemia treatment.
Context: We delivered the workshop as a required component of the resident curriculum in ambulatory medicine. To evaluate the impact of the workshop, we used written course evaluations, tracked the use of the newly introduced Decision Worksheets, and asked preceptors to perform direct observation of treatment decision conversations.
Outcome: Residents were involved in the development of the workshop and helped identify key content, suggested framing for difficult topics, and confirmed the need for the skills workshop. One hundred thirty internal medicine and medicine-pediatrics residents attended 8 workshops over a 4-month period. In written cases completed before the workshop, the majority of residents indicated that they would discuss medications, but few mentioned other treatment options or documented patients' goals and preferences in a sample encounter note with a patient with new depression symptoms. Overall, most participants (89.7%) rated the workshop as excellent or very good, and 93.5% said that they would change their practice based on what they learned. Decision Worksheets addressing diabetes, depression, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension were available on a primary care-focused intranet site and were downloaded almost 1,200 times in the first 8 months following the workshops. Preceptors were able to observe only one consult during which one of the four topics was discussed.
Lessons learned: Internal medicine residents had considerable gaps in shared decision-making skills as measured in a baseline written exercise. Residents provided valuable contributions to the development of a Decision Worksheet to be used at the point of care. Participants rated the skills workshop highly, though interns rated the exercise more useful than PGY-2 and PGY-3 residents did. The Decision Worksheets were accessed often following the sessions; however, observing the Decision Worksheets in use in real time was a challenge in the resident-faculty clinic. Additional studies are warranted to examine whether the workshop was successful in increasing residents' ability to implement skills in practice.
Keywords: depression; diabetes; resident education; risk communication; shared decision making.