The effect of parallel consulting on the quality of consultations in regional general practice
Objective: The sustainability of community-based medical education relies on maintaining consultation quality as perceived by patients. This study aims to investigate the effect of an alternative model (parallel consultation) of teaching on patients’ views of consultation quality as compared to the conventional consultation model in a general practice setting.
Design: A cross-sectional questionnaire study. Setting and Participants: Patients attending a regional general practice in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales between February and May 2010, who consented to student involvement in their consultation. Main Outcome Measures: Instruments to measure ‘empathy’ (CARE score) and ‘enablement’ (PEI score) as markers for consultation quality were administered after patient consultations.
Results: There was no difference in consultation length between the two groups. There was a small increase in the level of empathy experienced by patients attending parallel consultations compared to conventional consultations (p<0.05). The level of enablement did not differ between the groups. Although generally encouraging towards student involvement, patients’ attitudes were significantly more positive towards students involved in the parallel consultation group (p<0.01).
Conclusions: There is no loss in consultation quality, as experienced by the patient, when using the parallel consulting model. Parallel consulting does not change the length of time a patient spends with their doctor, and patients have a positive perception of the students involved in this model of clinical teaching.