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Fam Med. 2005 Mar;37(3):184-92.

Assessing communication competence: a review of current tools.

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Family Practice Center, Maine Medical Center, 272 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101, USA.



The assessment of communication competence has become a major priority of medical educational, policy, and licensing organizations in the United States and Canada. Multiple tools are available to assess communication competence, but there are few studies that compare the tools.


A consensus panel of six family medicine educators evaluated 15 instruments measuring the physician-patient interview. The primary evaluation criteria came from the Kalamazoo Consensus Statement (KCS), which derived from a multidisciplinary panel of experts that defined seven essential elements of physician-patient communication. We evaluated psychometric properties of the instruments and other assessment criteria felt to be important to family physicians (exploring family issues, interview efficiency, and usability/practicality).


Instruments that received the highest ratings on KCS elements were designed for faculty raters and varied in their practicality/usability ratings and psychometric properties. Few instruments were rated high on psychometric properties or exploring family issues.


The process successfully reviewed and provided a framework for assessing communication skills instruments. There is a need to expand the study, including use of a larger cohort of reviewers to provide more validity to the results and minimize potential biases.

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