Assessing Patient-Centered Care Abilities of Physicians

Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine have developed a tool to test how well a doctor delivers patient-centered care by assessing whether medical students have learned and are applying the correct behaviors.

Researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Medicine have developed a tool to test how well a doctor delivers patient-centered care by assessing whether medical students have learned and are applying the correct behaviors.

Working with patients to identify a list of behaviors that demonstrate a physician is providing patient-centered care, the researchers tailored the curriculum to teach these skills and then tested them on how well they delivered the care in ways patients expect.

“The test forces the future physician to go beyond just determining a diagnosis and to focus on behaviors that play an essential role to the effectiveness of the care he or she provides,” Kimberly Hoffman, PhD associate dean for curriculum and assessment, and research associate professor of family and community medicine at MU, said in a statement.

Third-year medical students are given the patient-centered care test in which an actor takes on characteristics of a real patient. The students are tested on interactions with patients (ranging from adolescents to senior citizens), how to solicit information, and how to create a care plan that reflects the patient’s preferences.

The researchers found that these medical students didn’t use medical jargon and had strong, effective communication skills. Furthermore, they listened to the patient and showed empathy, but still showed they were in charge by leading a critical conversation.

According to Hoffman, the School of Medicine has been able to identify areas of improvement, such as examining barriers that could cause problems with compliance with the treatment plan for patients and involving family members and others on the healthcare team more routinely in the patient’s care.

Although the tests are for students, faculty members have gotten involved by volunteering to grade the patient-centered care exams.

“[The assessment] is prompting reflection among our faculty on their own medical practices, and how they may continually improve their own patient-centered care behaviors,” she said.