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College of Medicine Develops New Physician Communication Training Tools

December 17, 2013

College of Medicine Develops New Physician Communication Training Tools

The ABIM Foundation announces new education modules, developed by Drexel University College of Medicine and nine medical specialty societies, to help physicians engage their patients in conversations about tests and procedures to question. Research has found that patient-doctor communication is perhaps the most significant component of a patient's visit; yet many physicians receive limited training to develop these critical communication skills. To help address this gap, the ABIM Foundation funded Drexel to create a series of interactive instructional modules based on specialty society recommendations from the Choosing Wisely campaign.

The scenario-based modules include situations physicians commonly encounter, using the Choosing Wisely lists of things to question as a starting point. Modules address areas—such as patient requests for an MRI for back pain, antibiotics for sinusitis, CT scans for head trauma in children and pre-operative stress tests—and provide specific recommendations on how physicians can engage their patients in conversations about the risks and benefits of these tests or treatments. The modules are annotated with the evidence supporting each recommendation, along with a feature that allows physicians to engage in more active learning by comparing their attitudes and practices with others in their specialty.

"Research shows strong communication skills enable physicians to elicit important diagnostic information, assess patients' needs and preferences, provide effective counseling and reinforce patient trust. It also leads to increased patient satisfaction, greater adherence to treatment recommendations and improved clinical outcomes," said Richard J. Baron, MD, President and CEO of the ABIM Foundation. "These new modules will advance the Choosing Wisely campaign by helping physicians develop an enhanced communication skill set to engage their patients in conversations about getting the right amount of care for them—it is professionalism at its highest level."

New modules are available from:

  • American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American College of Cardiology
  • American College of Physicians
  • American College of Radiology
  • American Gastroenterological Association
  • American Society of Nephrology
  • American Society of Nuclear Cardiology

"We know many physicians aspire to the ideals of the Choosing Wisely campaign, but sometimes have a difficult time saying no to a patient request, even when a particular test or treatment won't provide benefit, and could actually cause harm," said Pamela Duke, MD, assistant professor of medicine and a course director for the Clinical Skills and Primary Care practicums at Drexel University College of Medicine. "We hope these modules—featuring real physicians—provide guidance in conversations they have with the patients they see on a daily basis."

First launched in April 2012, nearly 60 medical specialty societies have joined Choosing Wisely to help physicians and patients engage in conversations about the overuse of tests and procedures and support physician efforts to help patients make smart and effective care choices. Find more information on the campaign at

About the ABIM Foundation
The mission of the ABIM Foundation is to advance medical professionalism to improve the health care system. We achieve this by collaborating with physicians and physician leaders, medical trainees, health care delivery systems, payers, policy makers, consumer organizations and patients to foster a shared understanding of professionalism and how they can adopt the tenets of professionalism in practice. To learn more about the ABIM Foundation, visit, read the Medical Professionalism Blog, connect with us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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