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What parents want from emails with their pediatrician: implications for teaching communication skills

Journal title
Patient education and counseling
Publication year
Schiller, J. H.; Christner, J. G.; Stansfield, R. B.; Watnick, C. S.; Mullan, P. B.

OBJECTIVE: Physician-patient email communication is increasing but trainees receive no education on this communication medium. Research eliciting patient preferences about email communication could inform training. Investigators elicited parents’ perspectives on physician-parent email communication and compared parent and faculty assessments of medical students’ emails. METHODS: This mixed methods study explored physician-parent email communication in 5 parent focus groups using qualitative analyses to identify themes. Differences between faculty and parent assessment scores for students’ email responses were calculated using univariate general linear modeling. RESULTS: Themes that emerged were: (1) Building the Relationship, (2) Clarity of Communication and (3) Expectations. Parents criticized student’s statements as condescending. The sum of assessment scores by parents and faculty were moderately correlated (r(44)=.407, P<.01), but parents gave students lower scores on "acknowledges validity/expresses empathy" (P=.01) and higher scores on "provides next steps" (P<.01) and "identifies issues" (P<.01). CONCLUSION: Parents place value on students' abilities to communicate clearly and convey respect and empathy in email. Parent and faculty perspectives on email communication are similar but not the same. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Differences between parental and faculty assessments of medical students' emails supports the need for the involvement of patients and families in email communication curriculum development.

Research abstracts