A Division of Medical Communications in an Academic Medical Center’s Department of Medicine

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Abstract

Excellent physician communication skills (physician-to-patient and patient-to-physician) have been found to have a positive impact on patient satisfaction and may positively affect patient health behaviors and health outcomes. Such skills are also essential for accurate, succinct, and clear peer-to-peer (physician-to-physician), physician-to-lay-public, and physician-to-media communications. These skills are not innate, however; they must be learned and practiced repeatedly. The Division of Medical Communications (DMC) was created within the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as an intellectual home for physicians who desire to learn and teach the wide variety of skills needed for effective communication.

In this Perspective, the authors provide an overview of the key types of medical communications and share the DMC model as an innovative approach to providing expert guidance to physicians and physicians-in-training as they develop, practice, and refine their communication skills. Current DMC projects and programs include a Volunteer Patient Teaching Corps, which provides feedback to medical students, residents, and faculty on communication skills; a controlled trial of a modified team-based learning method for attending rounds; expert coaching in preparation for presentations of all types (e.g., grand rounds; oral presentations or poster presentations on basic science, clinical, or medical education research); sessions on speaking to the media and running a meeting well; and courses on writing for publication. Objective assessment of the impact of each of these interventions is planned.

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