Purpose: To assess whether perspective-taking, which researchers in other fields have shown to induce empathy, improves patient satisfaction in encounters between student–clinicians and standardized patients (SPs).
Method: In three studies, randomly assigned students (N = 608) received either a perspective-taking instruction or a neutral instruction prior to a clinical skills examination in 2006–2007. SP satisfaction was the main outcome in all three studies. Study 1 involved 245 third-year medical students from two universities. Studies 2 and 3 extended Study 1 to examine generalizability across student and SP subpopulations. Study 2 (105 physician assistant students, one university) explored the effect of perspective-taking on African American SPs' satisfaction. Study 3 (258 third-year medical students, two universities) examined the intervention's effect on students with high and low baseline perspective-taking tendencies.
Results: Intervention students outscored controls in patient satisfaction in all studies: Study 1: P = .01, standardized effect size = 0.16; Study 2: P = .001, standardized effect size = 0.31; Study 3: P = .009, standardized effect size = 0.13. In Study 2, perspective-taking improved African American SPs' satisfaction. In Study 3, intervention students with high baseline perspective-taking tendencies outscored controls (P = .0004, standardized effect size = 0.25), whereas those with low perspective-taking tendencies did not (P = .72, standardized effect size = 0.00).
Conclusions: Perspective-taking increased patient satisfaction in all three studies, across medical schools, clinical disciplines, and racially diverse students and SPs. Perspective-taking as a means for improving patient satisfaction deserves further exploration in clinical training and practice.