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Korean J Med Educ. 2010 Dec;22(4):291-301. doi: 10.3946/kjme.2010.22.4.291. Epub 2010 Dec 31.

Content Analysis of Standardized-Patients' Descriptive Feedback on Student Performance on the CPX.

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Department of Medical Education, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.



The goal of this study was to explore what kind of additional information is provided by the descriptive comments other than the rating scales, on the physician-patient interaction (PPI) in the clinical performance examination (CPX) and its feedback role in identifying students' strengths and weaknesses in communication skills.


The data were collected from 18 medical schools in Seoul and Gyeonggi region, which participated in the CPX for fourth-year medical students in 2006 and 2007. In total 12,650 examination cases in 2006 and 12,814 cases in 2007 were analyzed. Descriptive comments from the standardized patients (SPs) were analyzed by content analysis, which includes a 4-step process: coding, conceptualizing, categorizing and explanation.


Ten categories (41 concepts) for 'strength' and 11 for 'weakness' (40 concepts) in the PPI were extracted. Among them, 10 categories were the same in both strength and weakness: providing adequate interview atmosphere, attentive listening, providing emotional support, non-verbal behaviors, professional attitude, questioning, explanation, reaching agreement, counseling & education and conducting adequate physical examination. For the 'structured and organized interview', only weakness was described. In 'providing emotional support' and 'adequate interview atmosphere', comments on strengths were more frequently mentioned than weaknesses. However, communication skills that were related to non-verbal behaviors were more frequently considered weaknesses rather than strengths. The numbers and content of the SP's comments on students' strengths and weaknesses in the PPI varied depending on the case specificities.


The results suggest that the SPs' descriptive comments on student' performance on the CPX can provide additional information versus structured quantitative assessment tools such as performance checklists and rating scales. In particular, this information can be used as valuable feedback to identify the advantages and dicadvantages of the PPI and to enhance students' communication skills.


Clinical competence; Physician-patient relations; Qualitative research

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