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J Med Internet Res. 2016 Sep 12;18(9):e246. doi: 10.2196/jmir.6299.

A Web-Based Telehealth Training Platform Incorporating Automated Nonverbal Behavior Feedback for Teaching Communication Skills to Medical Students: A Randomized Crossover Study.

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1
School of Electrical and Information Engineering, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

In the interests of patient health outcomes, it is important for medical students to develop clinical communication skills. We previously proposed a telehealth communication skills training platform (EQClinic) with automated nonverbal behavior feedback for medical students, and it was able to improve medical students' awareness of their nonverbal communication.

OBJECTIVE:

This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of EQClinic to improve clinical communication skills of medical students.

METHODS:

We conducted a 2-group randomized crossover trial between February and June 2016. Participants were second-year medical students enrolled in a clinical communication skills course at an Australian university. Students were randomly allocated to complete online EQClinic training during weeks 1-5 (group A) or to complete EQClinic training during weeks 8-11 (group B). EQClinic delivered an automated visual presentation of students' nonverbal behavior coupled with human feedback from a standardized patient (SP). All students were offered two opportunities to complete face-to-face consultations with SPs. The two face-to-face consultations were conducted in weeks 6-7 and 12-13 for both groups, and were rated by tutors who were blinded to group allocation. Student-Patient Observed Communication Assessment (SOCA) was collected by blinded assessors (n=28) at 2 time points and also by an SP (n=83). Tutor-rated clinical communications skill in face-to-face consultations was the primary outcome and was assessed with the SOCA. We used t tests to examine the students' performance during face-to-face consultations pre- and postexposure to EQClinic.

RESULTS:

We randomly allocated 268 medical students to the 2 groups (group A: n=133; group B: n=135). SOCA communication skills measures (score range 4-16) from the first face-to-face consultation were significantly higher for students in group A who had completed EQClinic training and reviewed the nonverbal behavior feedback, compared with group B, who had completed only the course curriculum components (P=.04). Furthermore, at the second face-to-face assessment, the group that completed a teleconsultation between the two face-to-face consultations (group B) showed improved communication skills (P=.005), and the one that had teleconsultations before the first face-to-face consultation (group A) did not show improvement.

CONCLUSIONS:

The EQClinic is a useful tool for medical students' clinical communication skills training that can be applied to university settings to improve students clinical communication skills development.

KEYWORDS:

affective computing; automated feedback; clinical consultation; communication skills; medical education; nonverbal behavior; nonverbal behavior detection; nonverbal communication

PMID:
27619564
PMCID:
PMC5037316
DOI:
10.2196/jmir.6299
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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