Background: Since patient-centered communication is directly connected to clinical performance, it should be integrated with medical knowledge and clinical skills. Therefore, clinical communication skills should be trained and assessed as an integral part of the student's clinical performance. We were unable to identify a tool, which helps when assessing patient-centered communication skills as an integrated component of medical history taking ('the integrated medical interview'). Therefore, we decided to design a new tailor-made assessment tool, the BOCC (BeOordeling Communicatie en Consultvoering (Dutch), Assessment of Communication and Consultation (English) to help raters assess students' integrated clinical communication skills with the emphasis on patient-centred communication combined with the correct medical content. This is a first initiative to develop such a tool, and this paper describes the first steps in this process.
Methods: We investigated the tool in a group of third-year medical students (n = 672) interviewing simulated patients. Internal structure and internal consistency were assessed. Regression analysis was conducted to investigate the relationship between scores on the instrument and general grading. Applicability to another context was tested in a group of fourth-year medical students (n = 374).
Results: PCA showed five components (Communication skills, Problem clarification, Specific History, Problem influence and Integration Skills) with various Cronbach's alpha scores. The component Problem Clarification made the strongest unique contribution to the grade prediction. Applicability was good when investigated in another context.
Conclusions: The BOCC is designed to help raters assess students' integrated communication skills. It was assessed on internal structure and internal consistency. This tool is the first step in the assessment of the integrated medical interview and a basis for further investigation to reform it into a true measurement instrument on clinical communication skills.
Keywords: Assessment; Clinical communication skills; Communication skills; Patient-centeredness; Physician-patient relations; Reliability; Reproducibility of results; Validity.