Communication skills training for physicians performing work disability assessments increases knowledge and self-efficacy: results of a randomised controlled trial.

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PURPOSE: It was assessed whether a post-graduate communication skills training course would increase physicians' competence and knowledge with regard to communication during work disability assessment interviews, and would change the determinants of their communication behaviour. METHODS: A randomised controlled trial was performed. At baseline and at follow-up, 42 physicians completed questionnaires. The primary outcome measures were competence and knowledge about communication. The secondary outcome measures were 21 self-reported determinants of communication behaviour. One-way analyses of variance and covariance were performed. RESULTS: There was no significant difference between the intervention and control groups in overall competence, but there was for the introduction phase (intervention: mean = 7.0, SD 2.7; control: mean = 4.8, SD 2.7; p = 0.014). Knowledge about communication was significantly higher (p = 0.001) in the intervention group (mean = 79.6, SD 9.2) than in the control group (mean = 70.9, SD 6.7), especially concerning the information-gathering phase of the interview (intervention: mean = 80.0, SD 10.2; control: mean = 69.4, SD 8.9; p = 0.001). The intervention group scored significantly better on 7 of the 21 self-reported determinants (secondary outcomes), including self-efficacy, intentions, skills and knowledge. CONCLUSIONS: The communication skills training course may improve some aspects of physician communication, but not all. Because physicians were unanimously positive about the course, further development is warranted. Implications for Rehabilitation Even though optimal communication is essential in face-to-face assessment interviews for determining entitlement to work disability benefits, and there is a lot at stake for the claimants, this issue has scarcely been addressed in scientific research. A tailor-made two-day communication skills training course, based on scientific research, increases physicians' knowledge about communication (both objectively measured and self-reported), their self-efficacy and their intention to pay explicit attention to their communication during assessment interviews. The participants evaluated the communication skills training course as very positive, which indicates a successful application of scientific research in practice. It is essential to offer physicians assessing entitlement to work disability benefits the opportunity to attend post-graduate communication skills training courses, which are tailored to their needs and are continuously evaluated and improved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisability and rehabilitation
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Publication series

NameDisability and rehabilitation

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