UCSF Engages Hospitalists to Improve Patient Communication


Quality Improvement

In a poster presented at HM12, Kathryn Quinn, MPH, CPPS, FACHE, described how her quality team at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) developed a checklist to improve physician communication with patients, then taught it to the attending hospitalist faculty.1 The project began with a list of 29 best practices for patient-physician interaction, as identified in medical literature. Hospitalists then voted for the elements they felt were most important to their practice, as well as those best able to be measured, and a top-10 list was created.

Quinn, the program manager for quality and safety in the division of hospital medicine at UCSF, says the communication best practices were “chosen by the people whose practices we are trying to change.”

The quality team presented the best practices in one-hour training sessions that included small-group role plays, explains co-investigator and UCSF hospitalist Diane Sliwka, MD. The training extended to outpatient physicians, medical specialists, and chief residents. Participants also were provided a laminated pocket card listing the interventions. They also received feedback from structured observations with patients on service.

Quinn says UCSF hospitalists have improved at knocking and asking permission to enter patient rooms, introducing themselves by name and role, and encouraging questions at the end of the interaction. They have been less successful at inquiring about the patient’s concerns early in the interview and at discussing duration of treatment and next steps.

“We learned that it takes more than just talk,” Quinn says. “Just telling physicians how to improve communication doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.”

Still to be determined is the project’s impact on patient satisfaction scores, although the hospitalists reported that they found the training and feedback helpful.


  1. Quinn K, Neeman N, Mourad M, Sliwka D. Communication coaching: A multifaceted intervention to improve physician-patient communication [abstract]. J Hosp Med. 2012;7 Suppl 2:S108.
  2. Sokol PE, Wynia MK. There and Home Again, Safely: Five Responsibilities of Ambulatory Practices in High Quality Care Transitions. American Medical Association website. http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/patient-safety/ambulatory-practices.pdf. Accessed February 12, 2013.
  3. Dharmarajan K, Hsieh AF, Lin Z, et al. Diagnoses and timing of 30-day readmissions after hospitalization for heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, or pneumonia. JAMA. 2013;309(4):355-363.
  4. JAMA Internal Medicine. Nearly one-third of physicians report missing electronic notification of test results. JAMA Internal Medicine website. Available at: http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/nearly-one-third-of-physicians-report-missing-electronic-notification-of-test-results/.Accessed April 8, 2013.
  5. Miliard M. VA enlists telehealth for disasters. Healthcare IT News website. http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/va-enlists-telehealth-disasters. Published February 27, 2013. Accessed April 1, 2013.

Next Article:

   Comments ()