Humanism in Healthcare Research Roundup — March 2016

booksThis post is part of our series of Research Roundups — a list of recently published studies on humanism in healthcare. If you would like to be notified each time a Research Roundup is published, send an email to with the subject line “Subscribe RR.”

Publications from Gold Foundation-Affiliated Authors

Using virtual patients to teach empathy: A randomized controlled study to enhance medical students’ empathic communication
Foster A, Chaudhary N, Kim T, Waller JL, et al.    Simul Healthc. 2016 Feb 2.
This study was funded by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.
70 medical students were randomly assigned to 3 separate study groups where they interacted with one type of virtual patient. Then all students interviewed a standardized patient during which there were opportunities to express empathy. Students who interacted with the empathy-feedback virtual patient showed higher empathy in the standardized patient interview than did the students in the other two study groups.

The impact of resident training on communication with families in the ICU: Resident and family outcomes
Sullivan AM, Rock LK, Gadmer NM, Norwich DE, Schwartzstein RM.    Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2016 Mar 18
Dr. Rock is a Mapping the Landscape, Journeying Together grant recipient
Residents in an ICU rotation were required to attend a weekly communication training program. The program included interactive discussion and role play with immediate feedback from simulated family members. After real-life family members interacted with a resident they were asked to complete a survey. Family members were more likely to describe residents as having “fully met” their informational and emotional needs when the resident had completed 2-3 course sessions compared with residents who had taken one session or no sessions.

Burnout and alcohol abuse/dependence among U.S.medical students
Jackson ER, Shanafelt TD, Hasan O, Satele DV, Dyrbye LN.    Acad Med. 2016 Mar 1
Dr. Shanafelt is a Mapping the Landscape, Journeying Together grant recipient
In 2012, the authors completed a national survey of 4,400+ medical students. 32% met diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse/dependence. Students who were burned out, depressed, or reported low mental or emotional quality of life were more likely to have alcohol abuse/dependence.

Building resilience for palliative care clinicians: An approach to burnout prevention based on individual skills and workplace factors
Back AL, Steinhauser KE, Kamal AH, Jackson VA.    J Pain Symptom Manage. 2016 Feb 24
All authors are Mapping the Landscape, Journeying Together grant recipients
Researchers sought to design an acceptable, scalable, and testable intervention tailored to the needs of palliative care clinicians. In this article, they describe their paradigm for approaching clinician resilience, their conceptual model, and their curriculum for a workplace resilience intervention for hospital-based palliative care teams. The intervention will focus on individual skill building, and will be evaluated with measures of resilience, coping, and affect.

Communication skills training for physicians improves patient satisfaction
Boissy A, Windover AK, Bokar D, Karafa M, Neuendorf K, Frankel RM, Merlino J, Rothberg MB.    J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Feb 26.
Dr. Boissy is a Gold Humanism Scholar and Dr. Frankel is an advisory to the Gold Foundation Research Institute
This observational study of over 3,400 physicians examined the impact of experiential relationship-centered physician communication skills training on patient satisfaction and physician experience. The training was found to improve patient satisfaction scores, improve physician empathy and self-efficacy, and reduce physician burnout.

Other Publications

Prevalence of depression amongst medical students: A meta-analysis
Puthran R, Zhang MW, Tam WW, Ho RC.    Med Educ. 2016 Apr;50(4):456-68.
Researchers conducted a systematic review of studies examining prevalence of depression among medical students. Analyses of 77 included studies demonstrated a global prevalence of depression amongst medical students of 28.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] 24.2-32.1%) but treatment rates were relatively low.

The effects of hospital-level factors on patients’ ratings of physician communication
Al-Amin M, Makarem SC.    J Healthc Manag. 2016 Jan-Feb;61(1):28-41.
Researchers examined data from HCAHPS and the American Hospital Association from over 2,700 hospitals. Three organizational factors had statistically significant negative associations with physician communication: for-profit ownership; hospital size; and hospitalists providing care in the hospital. Positive associations with patients’ ratings of physician communication were the number of full-time-equivalent physicians and dentists per 10,000 inpatient days; physician or public ownership of the hospital; and Medicare share of inpatient days.

BrandyKing-150x150This post was written by Brandy King, Head of Information Services at The Arnold P. Gold Foundation Research Institute