Intended for healthcare professionals


The patients who decide what makes a good doctor

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 27 April 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1829
Opinion: The patient’s role in medical education extends well beyond being “clinical material”

The involvement of patients is the future of medical education: a medical student view

As a current UK medical student undertaking regular academic assessments such as the objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) I understand the importance of patients being involved with the marking. Throughout my training, I am taught about good communication skills in listening and responding to a patient's concerns. Hence, it is reasonable to appreciate that patients or simulated patients in OSCE stations have a role in our overall mark.

Consequently, I am not surprised at this practice being implemented at multiple medical schools across the country. It was interesting to read about the advancement of patients influencing curriculum and assessments at the university of Oxford, with a 50/50 mark scheme between clinician managers and patients (1). The example with a patient noticing the doctor grinning during the consultation demonstrates an aspect which a clinical examiner may not identify. However, I would argue that a 50/50 mark scheme may have a negative effect on future doctors. For example, a doctor may impress the patient yet be a cause of decreased patient safety due to significant gaps in clinical knowledge that are masked by exceptional communication skills.

As a medical student, it is not difficult to notice the difference in medical practice between older experienced consultants and newly qualified doctors. The understanding of patients as more than just a hospital number or a diagnosis empowers them and allows doctors to treat them in a holistic manner. This is extremely important in an age where patients are becoming more educated with the easy access of informational technologies.

My training has taught me to listen and respect periods of silences with patients, whilst addressing their concerns in addition to applying good clinical knowledge to find solutions to their problems. It is for this reason that I believe involving patients in medical education and assessments will lead to the development of the ideal doctor.

The future of medical practice is most definitely shifting towards an open consultation where the patient's views should be understood and appreciated rather than a one sided conversation with the doctor dominating. Indeed, a good doctor is one who has competent clinical knowledge and impressive communication skills, not the bad doctor who is only experienced in one aspect either knowledge or communication.

1. Wilkinson E. The patients who decide what makes a good doctor. BMJ. 2018;:k1829.

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 April 2018
Muhammed Shaan Riaz
Medical student
St George's University of London
St Georges, University of London Cranmer Terrace, London, SW17 0RE