As the preceding article by Butler and Keller suggests, even a little communication training can help physicians work more effectively with patients. A study funded by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Permanente Medical Group quantifies this perception. Between 1990 and 1995, 1,384 clinicians -- 1,055 of them physicians -- attended one-day workshops designed to improve the quality of clinician-patient communication. Participants evaluated the workshop at its conclusion and again three months later. Respondents were asked about their level of agreement with statements below on a 17 scale, 1 meaning "never" or "strongly disagree," and 7, "extremely often" or "strongly agree." Average responses are rounded to the nearest quarter.
Of course, it's easy to be nice to people who are nice to you. The true test for any communicator is being able to win over those who are difficult -- including difficult patients. Participants were asked how the workshop helped them handle sticky situations.
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SOURCE: "THRIVING IN A BUSY PRACTICE: PHYSICIAN-PATIENT COMMUNICATION TRAINING," EFFECTIVE CLINICAL PRACTICE, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS/AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INTERNAL MEDICINE AND ALLIANCE OF COMMUNITY HEALTH PLANS, MARCH 1999