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The effectiveness of arts-based interventions in medical education: a literature review


Dr Mark Perry, Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine, Mile End Hospital, Queen Mary University of London, Bancroft Road, London E1 4DG, UK. Tel: 00 44 020 8223 8528; Fax: 00 44 020 8223 8930; E-mail:


Medical Education 2011: 45: 141–148

Context  Arts-based interventions, which aim to foster understanding of the patient’s perspective and to enhance communication skills, have been part of the medical curriculum for several years. This review aims to evaluate the available evidence base for their effectiveness and to suggest the nature of future work.

Methods  The MEDLINE, Google Scholar and ISI Web of Knowledge databases were searched for published articles on studies that have attempted to evaluate the efficacy of an arts-based approach in undergraduate medical education. Further articles were identified through cross-referencing, discussion with colleagues and hand-searching key journals. One mixed, 10 qualitative and four quantitative studies were reviewed.

Results  Some studies claim that arts-based interventions are effective in altering attitudes, but poor descriptions of methodology and results make it difficult to judge these claims. No studies consider the effects on behaviour. The evidence base for using arts-based interventions to foster diagnostic observation skills is stronger. However, their effect on other clinical skills has not been studied.

Conclusions  There is a need for further studies to produce a rigorous evaluation of arts-based interventions in terms of their effects on attitudes, behaviour and technical skills other than those involved in observation.