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Abstract

The doctor’s interpersonal skills are arguably the most important to clinical outcome and patient experience. A peer-facilitated, communication skills-building course for physicians has been provided twice annually since its inception in 2004. The course was designed to increase personal awareness, as well as to help physicians develop new communication and interpersonal skills. Satisfaction data from 3,561 patient surveys on 80 providers who attended the course between 2006 and 2010 were analyzed one year before and one year after course participation. After completing the course, the proportion of “excellent” ratings of provider service (the highest rating on a 5-point scale) increased by 2% to 5.6%. The most notable improvements in service attributes under the provider’s control and covered in the course content were: involving the patient in care decisions (P < .001), explaining medical condition (P=.002), and the provider’s knowing the patient as a person (P = .004). Other improvements were noted in courtesy (by 3.4%, P=.027), listening (by 3.5%, P=.036), and overall quality of care from the provider (by 3.5%, P=.027). Attributes not directly under the provider’s control – nursing quality, teamwork, spending enough time, and likelihood to recommend – were included in the analysis; year-over-year changes in these were not significant. Further, providers who participated in the course, when compared to those who did not, experienced an 18-percent decrease in patient complaints. Improvements in perception of excellent provider communication and other service-related behaviors suggest this training approach may be useful in improving patient satisfaction, patient experience, and payment in value-based models.

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