Evaluating the SPIKES Model for Improving Peer-to-Peer Feedback Among Internal Medicine Residents: a Randomized Controlled Trial

J Gen Intern Med. 2021 Jan 27. doi: 10.1007/s11606-020-06459-w. Online ahead of print.


Background: Feedback improves trainee clinical performance, but the optimal way to provide it remains unclear. Peer feedback offers unique advantages but comes with significant challenges including a lack of rigorously studied methods. The SPIKES framework is a communication tool adapted from the oncology and palliative care literature for teaching trainees how to lead difficult conversations.

Objective: To determine if a brief educational intervention focused on the SPIKES framework improves peer feedback between internal medicine trainees on inpatient medicine services as compared to usual practice.

Design: Randomized, controlled trial at an academic medical center during academic year 2017-2018.

Participants: Seventy-five PGY1 and 49 PGY2 internal medicine trainees were enrolled. PGY2s were randomized 1:1 to the intervention or control group.

Intervention: The intervention entailed a 30-min, case-based didactic on the SPIKES framework followed by a refresher email on SPIKES sent to PGY2s before each inpatient medicine rotation. PGY1s were blinded as to which PGY2s underwent the training.

Main measures: The primary outcome was PGY1 evaluation of the extent of feedback provided by PGY2s. Secondary outcomes included PGY1 report of feedback quality and PGY2 self-report of feedback quantity and quality. Outcomes were obtained via anonymous online survey and reported using a Likert scale with a range of one to four.

Key results: PGY1s completed 207 surveys (51% response rate) and PGY2s completed 61 surveys (42% response rate). PGY1s reported a higher extent of feedback (2.5 vs 2.2; p = 0.02; Cohen's d = 0.31), more specific feedback (2.3 vs 2.0; p < 0.01; d = 0.33), and higher satisfaction with feedback (2.6 vs 2.2; p < 0.01; d = 0.47) from intervention PGY2s. There were no significant differences in PGY2 self-reported outcomes.

Conclusions: With modest implementation requirements and notable limitations, a brief educational intervention focused on SPIKES increased PGY1 perception of the extent, specificity, and satisfaction with feedback from PGY2s.

Keywords: graduate medical education; peer feedback; surveys.