Grant Application

Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD, Mariann McElwain, MD, PhD, and Stephanie Nicholas, MD, of UPMC, and the Wolff Center, Center for Quality, Safety, and Innovation at UPMC


Proposed Innovation

In the quest to improve the value and quality of care while reducing costs, health care reform is casting a new light on the critical importance of doctor/patient communications in the patient experience, particularly as measured through patient satisfaction rankings. Studies show that better communications can yield important gains in outcomes for both patients and their doctors.

While other major medical institutions have active programs in place to improve provider communications, no comparable support program exists at UPMC. Funding for this project by the Beckwith Institute will support the creation of a peer-facilitated curriculum that will help doctors — particularly specialists — promote more collaborative decision making with their patients and better understand new patient satisfaction ratings.


Improvements in Action

Using a peer-facilitated coaching model, this project will begin by refining and testing RELATE, a relationship-focused communication curriculum for doctors that emphasizes these six core concepts:

  • Relationship focus
  • Engagement
  • Listening
  • Attention to self (to avoid burnout)
  • Teamwork (collaborative information gathering and shared decision making)
  • Empathy

High quality videos of doctor/patient interactions also will be created to showcase opportunities for more effective communication, using professional actors from the University of Pittsburgh as patients.


Results – In Progress

A 9-month pilot study will then be conducted among 60 physicians using RELATE, directed at enhancing communications and shared decision making with patients. A secondary goal will be to address issues of physician burnout and job satisfaction.

Efforts will also be directed at determining how best to measure improvements in patient satisfaction ratings of physician communication.

If this project proves to be an efficient training tool, the RELATE curriculum will be used to train all current and future UPMC doctors.