Assessing patient perceptions of hospitalist communication skills using the Communication Assessment Tool (CAT)

Darlene E. Ferranti, Gregory Makoul, Victoria E. Forth, Jennifer Rauworth, Jungwha Lee, Mark V. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Hospitalists care for an increasing percentage of hospitalized patients, yet evaluations of patient perceptions of hospitalists' communication skills are lacking. OBJECTIVE: Assess hospitalist communication skills using the Communication Assessment Tool (CAT). METHODS: A cross-sectional study of patients, age 18 or older, admitted to the hospital medicine service at an urban, academic medical center with 873 beds. Thirty-five hospitalists assigned to both direct care and teaching service were assessed. MEASUREMENTS: Hospitalist communication was measured with the CAT. The 14-item survey, written at a fourth grade level, measures responses along a 5-point scale ("poor" to "excellent"). Scores are reported as a percentage of "excellent" responses. RESULTS: We analyzed 700 patient surveys (20 for each of 35 hospitalists). The proportion of excellent ratings for each hospitalist ranged from 38.5% to 73.5%, with an average of 59.1% excellent (SD=9.5). Highest ratings on individual CAT items were for treating the patient with respect, letting the patient talk without interruptions, and talking in terms the patient can understand. Lowest ratings were for involving the patient in decisions as much as he or she wanted, encouraging the patient to ask questions, and greeting the patient in a way that made him or her feel comfortable. Overall scale reliability was high (Cronbach's alpha = 0.97). CONCLUSIONS:: The CAT can be used to gauge patient perceptions of hospitalist communication skills. Many hospitalists may benefit from targeted training to improve communication skills, particularly in the areas of encouraging questions and involving patients in decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-527
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hospital Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Leadership and Management
  • Fundamentals and skills
  • Health Policy
  • Care Planning
  • Assessment and Diagnosis


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