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Med Educ. 2006 Jul;40(7):624-9.

Communication skills competencies: definitions and a teaching toolbox.

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Harvard Medical School; Director of Programs for Communication Skills, Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02130, USA.



Doctors' interpersonal and communication skills correlate with improved health care outcomes. International medical organisations require competency in communication skills. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) developed a toolbox for assessing this competency and 5 others, yet none initially for teaching these skills.


The original focus in the development of the ACGME competencies was evaluation. This paper represents a significant step toward defining methods for teaching communication skills competencies. A total of 16 medical education leaders from medical schools worldwide, participating in the 2003 Harvard Macy Institute Program for Physician Educators, worked together to: (1) further define the ACGME competency in interpersonal and communication skills; (2) delineate teaching strategies for each level of medical education; and (3) create a teaching toolbox to integrate communication skills competencies into medical curricula. Four subgroups defined subcompetencies, identified teaching strategies for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate medical training and brought their work to the larger group. The expanded communication competencies and teaching strategies were determined by a consensus of the larger group, presented to 80 Harvard Macy Scholars and Faculty for further discussion, then finalised by consensus.


The teaching toolbox expands the ACGME core communication competencies, adds 20 subcompetencies and connects these competencies to teaching strategies at each level of medical training. It represents the collaboration and consensus of a diverse international group of medical education leaders in a variety of medical specialities and institutions, all involved in teaching communication skills. The toolbox is applicable globally across different settings and specialities, and is sensitive to different definitions of health care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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