COGConnect: A new visual resource for teaching and learning effective consulting

Patient Educ Couns. 2021 Jan 6;S0738-3991(20)30680-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2020.12.016. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Consultation skills are essential to clinical practice and, when effective, can facilitate diagnoses and improve patient satisfaction. Various models exist to facilitate consultation teaching. These can be prescriptive, a challenge to apply in clinical settings and are often designed for primary care. In redesigning our entire curriculum, we sought to create a new visual, digital, resource for consultation teaching, aligned with statements from the UK Council for Clinical Communication (UKCCC), and suitable for the evolving expectations of patients, clinicians and the UK NHS, in 21st century medicine.

Methods: We conducted a literature review encompassing teaching methods, NHS Priorities, patients' priorities, lifestyle interventions and practitioner resilience. COGConnect was designed iteratively through consultation with a graphic designer, health psychologists, a range of clinicians, and a consultation expert, and has evolved through extensive use in our new "effective consulting" course in primary and secondary care.

Results: COGConnect is deliberately visual, iterative, bi-directional and multi-phasic. The central image of COGConnect is two persons in connection; the floating cogs suggesting an encounter of different agents who must adapt their cog-connection in terms of speed, direction and dimension. Around this image we place five core values. The consultation phases are represented by ten colourful cogs, with important additions including 'formulating', 'activating' and 'integrating'.

Conclusion: COGConnect builds on the strengths of existing frameworks and provides a strong visual resource suitable for digital learning. It offers greater emphasis on explicit clinical reasoning, activation of patient self-care and learning from the interaction. Having become the de facto resource for consultation skills training across primary and secondary care in our institution, the next phase is to develop the website and a programme of formal evaluation.

Keywords: Clinical reasoning; Communication skills; Consultation skills teaching; Consultations skills; Medical education; Medical students; Self-care activation.