Enhancing Student Empathetic Engagement, History-Taking, and Communication Skills During Electronic Medical Record Use in Patient Care

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Abstract

Purpose

To examine whether an intervention on proper use of electronic medical records (EMRs) in patient care could help improve medical students’ empathic engagement, and to test the hypothesis that the training would reduce communication hurdles in clinical encounters.

Method

Seventy third-year medical students from the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University were randomly divided into intervention and control groups during their six-week pediatric clerkship in 2012–2013. The intervention group received a one-hour training session on EMR-specific communication skills, including discussion of EMR use, the SALTED mnemonic and technique (Set-up, Ask, Listen, Type, Exceptions, Documentation), and role-plays. Both groups completed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) at the clerkship’s start and end. At clerkship’s end, faculty and standardized patients (SPs) rated students’ empathic engagement in SP encounters, using the Jefferson Scale of Patient Perceptions of Physician Empathy (JSPPPE), and their history-taking and communication skills.

Results

Faculty mean ratings on the JSPPPE, history-taking skills, and communication skills were significantly higher for the intervention group than the control group. SP mean ratings on history-taking skills were significantly higher for the intervention group than the control group. Both groups’ JSE mean scores increased pretest to posttest, but the changes were not significant. The intervention group’s posttest JSE mean score was higher than the control group’s, but the difference was not significant.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that a simple intervention providing specialized training in EMR-specific communication can improve medical students’ empathic engagement in patient care, history-taking skills, and communication skills.

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