Every year, almost 10,000 students in Germany complete their studies in medicine and start their careers as physicians in practices or hospitals. However, for many of these former students, one element was lacking in their studies: the acquisition of thorough communication skills. Dialogue with patients has a significant impact on the course and success of treatment. It is particularly important for shared decision making that physicians work together with patients to carefully weigh the benefits and harms of treatment options. To do this, they must be able to clearly convey medical results to their patients. These skills are still not adequately taught in the study of medicine, and are very rarely tested in exams, if at all.
Greater relevance to practice in teaching and exams
We want to change this, and we advocate giving more weight to physician-patient communication in the study of medicine. These skills should be anchored in teaching plans and in exams. To achieve this, we support the Institute for Medical and Pharmaceutical Examination Questions (Institut für medizinische und pharmazeutische Prüfungsfragen, IMPP). As a federal institution, the IMPP’s responsibilities include reviewing the examination of the knowledge and skills of future physicians throughout Germany.
Medical studies master plan 2020 paves the way
Paving the way for changes to course structure and curriculum content is the Medical Studies Master Plan 2020 (Masterplan Medizinstudium 2020), adopted in March 2017. Its stipulations include a reform of the state medical exams. Contributors include two former German Federal Ministers – Hermann Gröhe (Health) and Johanna Wanka (Education and Research) – and representatives from the Conference of Ministers of Education, the Conference of Ministers of Health, and the coalition parties of the German Federal Parliament.
Focal points of our project
In the future, communication skills should be standardized and objectively assessed in the state medical exams. In order to do this, the IMPP is developing practical exam questions on the specific content of physician-patient dialogue. In addition, it is working on an evaluation form to assess the structure and comprehensiveness of medical documentation, as well as its communication in lay language.