Better communication goal of doctor training

The Faculty of Medicine is developing a new training program to help doctors
in B.C. communicate more effectively with patients.

“Patients who take a more active, informed role in their own care can respond
better to treatment,” says Prof. William Godolphin of the Dept. of Pathology
and Laboratory Medicine, who is leading the project.

Called Informed Shared Decision Making (ISDM), the project will immediately
begin assessing the communication needs of both doctors and patients to ensure
the training program is effective. The program will offer advanced communication
skills for medical students at UBC, continuing medical education for doctors
and communication skills for patients.

Some 80 per cent of the complaints heard by the College of Physicians and
Surgeons arise from a lack of communication, Godolphin says.

Last year, about 15 undergraduate medical students helped to conduct surveys,
focus groups and patient interviews to learn where the communication gaps were.
The information was used to design pilot communication courses that will be
delivered later this year to medical faculty and students.

The program will be evaluated and refined, with courses for doctors starting
in spring 1998. Courses for patients are planned for next year, likely in conjunction
with disease-related organizations offering patient education.

The UBC project team, which includes medical educator Angela Towle and sociologist
Rachael McKendry, combines a range of expertise including ethics, law, linguistics
and psychology. It is supported by a management committee of health communicators
and educators, and student and faculty representatives from the Faculty of Medicine.

A variety of continuing education formats such as small group workshops with
doctors and patients will be tested to determine how to deliver the information,
says Godolphin.

Once the B.C. program has been evaluated, the team expects to launch similar
programs across Canada.

The project is funded by grants from the B.C. Medical Services Foundation,
UBC’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund and a three-year $137,000 grant
from the Max Bell Foundation, a national agency funding medical education.