The Effects of Patient Communication Skills Training on the Discourse of Older Patients During a Primary Care Interview


Address correspondence to Donald J. Cegala, PhD, School of Journalism and Communication and Department of Family Medicine, The Ohio State University, 3016 Derby Hall, 154 N. Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210.


OBJECTIVES: To test the effects of a communication skills training intervention on older patients' discourse during a primary care interview.

DESIGN: A quasi-experimental design involving two intervention conditions.

SETTING: The Family Practice Center of a university-based clinic.

PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-three patients averaging age 72 and 9 family practice physicians.

INTERVENTION: A communication skills training booklet received approximately 3 days before the scheduled appointment and a 30-minute face-to-face follow-up session before seeing the physician.

MEASUREMENTS: Patients' seeking, providing, and verifying of information were coded from transcripts of the 33 interviews.

RESULTS: Trained patients engaged in significantly more seeking and providing of information than untrained patients. Additionally, trained patients obtained significantly more information from physicians than did untrained patients, both in terms of the number of total information units and the number of units per question asked.

CONCLUSION: Patient communication skills training appears to be an effective means of enhancing patients' participation in the medical interview without increasing the overall length of the interview.