Problems may arise when healthcare providers focus on managing diseases rather than on people and their health problems. Patient-centred approaches to care delivery in the patient encounter are increasingly advocated by consumers and clinicians and incorporated into training for healthcare providers. We updated a 2001 systematic review of the effects of these training interventions for healthcare providers that aim to promote patient-centred care in clinical consultations.
We found 29 new randomized trials (up to June 2010), bringing the total of studies included in the review to 43. In most of the studies, training interventions were directed at primary care physicians (general practitioners, internists, paediatricians or family doctors) or nurses practising in community or hospital outpatient settings. Some studies trained specialists. Patients were predominantly adults with general medical problems, though two studies included children with asthma.
These studies showed that training providers to improve their ability to share control with patients about topics and decisions addressed in consultations are largely successful in teaching providers new skills. Short-term training (less than 10 hours) is as successful in this regard as longer training. Results are mixed about whether patients are more satisfied when providers practice these skills. The impact on general health is also mixed, although the limited data that could be pooled showed small positive effects on health status. Patients' specific health behaviours show improvement in the small number of studies where interventions use provider training combined with condition-specific educational materials and/or training for patients, such as teaching question-asking during the consultation or medication-taking after the consultation. However, the number of studies is too small to determine which elements of these multi-faceted studies are essential in helping patients change their healthcare behaviours.