Publication Details

Ashbury, F. D., Iverson, D. C. & Kralj, B. (2001). Physician Communication Skills: Results of a Survey of General/Family Practitioners in Newfoundland. Medical Education Online: an electronic journal, 6 (1), 1-11.


Purpose: To describe the attitudes related to communication skills, confidence in using commnication skills, and use of communication skills during the physician-patient encounter among a population-based sample of family physicians. Procedures: A mailed survey, distributed to all family physicians and general practitioners currently practicing in Newfoundland. The questionnaire was designed to collect data in five general areas participant demographics, physician confidence in using specific communication strategies, perceived adequacy of time spent by physicians with their patients, physician use of specific communication strategies with the adult patients they saw in the prior week, and physician use of specific communication strategies during the closing minutes of the encounters they had with adult patients in the prior week. Main Findings: A total of 160 completed surveys was received from practicing family physicians/general practitioners in Newfoundland, yielding an adjusted response rate of 43.1%. Most of the respondents (83.8%) indicated their communication skills are as important as technical skills in terms of achieving positive patient outcomes. Between one-third and one-half of the respondents, depending on the educational level queried, rated their communications skills training as being inadequate. Fewer than 20% of the respondents rated the communications skills training they received as being excellent. Physicians indicated a need to improve their use of 8 of 13 specific communication strategies during patient encounters, and reported using few communication strategies during the closing minutes of the encounter. Interactions that occurred during a typical encounter tended to focus on biomedical versus psychosocial issues. Conclusions: Family physicians/general practitioners recognize a need to improve their commnications skills. Well-designed communications skills training programs should be implemented at multi-levels of physician training in order to improve patient satisfaction with their encounters with family/general practitioners, and to increase the likelihood of positive patient outcomes.