Thursday, July 2, 2015

Is Patient Feedback a Useful Adjunct to Medical Student Evaluation?

Glenn Posner, MD, MDCM, FRCSC, MEd
University of Ottawa

Background: Effective evaluation of medical students and their competencies has become more challenging as the definition of competency has been expanded to encompass more than medical expertise. New evaluation guidelines require assessment of communication skills, professionalism, health advocacy, collaboration and the pursuit of scholarly endeavors. In addition to traditional written and oral examinations, novel techniques to evaluate these competencies need to be developed.

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to evaluate the feasibility and usefulness of utilizing patients in the evaluation of medical students' communication skills. The goal is to assess the reliability of the data collected and determine whether patients actually give a novel and added perspective that cannot be obtained from preceptors. Furthermore, the attitude of medical students towards this form of evaluation will be evaluated.

Methods: New clinic patients were recruited to complete a questionnaire evaluating the communication skills of clerkship students. At the end end of the study, the students were given a summary of the patient feedback and completed their own questionnaire regarding their attitudes towards the experience.

Results: The patient mean scores did not differ significantly from the preceptor mean scores (p=0.097). Although the optimal statistical method could not be employed, minimal reliability of 0.70 was achieved in 80% of cases when more than 14 patients were recruited. Overall, the students rated their experience with the project as positive, and did not feel nervous or change their behavior knowing that they were being evaluated.

Conclusions: Based on the findings of this study, patient feedback can be a useful adjunct to student evaluation, but it can be cumbersome to collect, and may not provide any novel data.