Assessing clinical communication skills in physicians: Are the skills context specific or generalizable

Lubna A. Baig, Claudio Violato, Rodney A. Crutcher

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54 Scopus citations


Background. Communication skills are essential for physicians to practice Medicine. Evidence for the validity and domain specificity of communication skills in physicians is equivocal and requires further research. This research was conducted to adduce evidence for content and context specificity of communication skills and to assess the usefulness of a generic instrument for assessing communication skills in International Medical Graduates (IMGs). Methods. A psychometric design was used for identifying the reliability and validity of the communication skills instruments used for high-stakes exams for IMG's. Data were collected from 39 IMGs (19 men 48.7%; 20 women 51.3%; Mean age = 41 years) assessed at 14 station OSCE and subsequently in supervised clinical practice with several instruments (patient surveys; ITERs; Mini-CEX). Results. All the instruments had adequate reliability (Cronbach's alpha:.54 -.96). There were significant correlations (r range: 0.37 -0.70, p <.05) of communication skills assessed by examiner with standardized patients, and of mini-CEX with patient surveys, and ITERs. The intra-item reliability across all cases for the 13 items was low (Cronbach's alpha:.20 -.56). The correlations of communication skills within method (e.g., OSCE or clinical practice) were significant but were non-significant between methods (e.g., OSCE and clinical practice). Conclusion. The results provide evidence of context specificity of communication skills, as well as convergent and criterion-related validity of communication skills. Both in OSCEs and clinical practice, communication checklists need to be case specific, designed for content validity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the support provided by the Alberta International Medical Graduate Program for assistance in the execution of this project. The authors also acknowledge the funding by Health Canada for the WAAIP Project. Special thanks to Dr. Andrea Laurie Cam-eron Vallevand for helping with the Generalizability analyses.


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