Consulting skills training and medical students' interviewing efficiency

Med Educ. 1996 Mar;30(2):121-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.1996.tb00729.x.


In more traditional medical education, medical students took a patient's medical history by asking a series of sequenced, routine questions, covering presenting medical problem(s); medical history; social and personal history; systems review; and physical examination. Following this process, the student then attempted to derive the patient's medical problems. This inductive problem-solving paradigm may not assist students to prepare for their future interviewing needs, given doctors use a hypothetico-deductive, problem-solving approach when interviewing patients and numerous researchers have developed specialized communication skills training programmes designed to enhance students' interviewing skills. Students given specific consulting skills training have tended to show significantly greater interpersonal effectiveness and improved interview behaviours compared with students who experience traditional patient clerking training. These improvements in interviewing tend to persist over the period of students' medical training. The aim of the present study was to determine whether specialized communication skills training helped students elicit greater quantity and quality of information from patients and if so, whether such information assisted students in improving their diagnostic skills. Videotaped history-taking interviews conducted by students trained in communication skills and untrained (control) students were rated for their interview efficiency. A comparison of ratings given by experimentally naive, independent observers revealed that trained students were more efficient, but took no longer than their control group counterparts to elicit fuller, more relevant information. However, the student groups did not differ in the accuracy or scope of their medical diagnoses. It is argued that students' lack of medical knowledge in this early phase of their clinical training militated against their being able to use their interviewing competence to derive more potentially accurate medical diagnoses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Communication*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking*