The Impact of a “Doctor-Patient Relationship” Discipline on Patient-Centred Attitudes

ABSTRACT Several studies have demonstrated that medical students’ attitudes toward patient-centred care tend to decline throughout undergraduate education. At present, the adequate translation of the communication skills among medical students into clinical practice remains a challenge. Regardless of the increased efforts of educators to improve the provision of patient care, learning to communicate as a professional physician remains a complex process. Objectives To evaluate the impact of the “doctor-patient relationship” discipline on medical students’ attitudes towards patient-centred care, and to examine whether variables related to demographic characteristics and different stages of education are associated to medical student’s patient-centred attitudes. Methods Two-hundred and seventy nine medical students who responded a Patient-Practitioner Orientation Scale (PPOS), a validated instrument exploring attitudes towards the doctor-patient relationship were enrolled: 128 (45.9%) who attended the “Doctor-Patient Relationship” discipline and 151 (54.1%) volunteer students, matched by sex and age, who have not taken the discipline. Multiple linear regression analyses were used to quantify the independent association between PPOS scores (overall PPOS, ‘sharing’ and ‘caring’ dimensions), demographic variables and year of medical school. Logistic models were created to quantify the independent association between the “doctor-patient relationship” discipline and PPOS and the sub-scales scores. Results In the linear regression analysis, female gender (p ≤ 0.01), older age (p ≤ 0.02) and earliest years of medical school (p ≤ 0.02) were significantly associated with more patient-centred attitudes. Higher score on the ‘sharing’ sub-scale was independently associated with attending the “doctor-patient relationship” discipline (4.50 ± 0.65 for those who have studied the discipline vs. 4.33 ± 0.65 for those who have not studied the discipline, p = 0.03) after adjustment, in logistic models, for student’s age, gender and years on the medical course. Medical educators should be focused on innovative strategies that stimulate humanistic attitudes, improve communication skills and truly change medical students’ behaviour towards patient-centred care.