Patient perceptions of allied health student communication and interpersonal skills: A cross-sectional study


  • Nicholas Tripodi Victoria University
  • Sarah Cossar Victoria University
  • Jessica Davidson Victoria University
  • Ryan Farmer Victoria University
  • Jessica Gorbonos Victoria University
  • Amelia McDonald Victoria University
  • Melanie Pierlot Victoria University



practitioner communication, allied health education, communication assessment tool, communication skills, health outcomes


Introduction: Effective patient–practitioner communication contributes to patient health outcomes by strengthening therapeutic relationships and, in the process, contributing to overall quality of patient care. Despite the growth of student-led university teaching clinics, little research has investigated communication skills within this context. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the patient-perceived levels of communication and interpersonal skills within a student-led allied health clinic.

Methods: The Communication Assessment Tool (CAT) was used to collect cross-sectional data on patients’ perceptions of student communication and interpersonal skills within an osteopathy teaching clinic. Data were analysed via descriptive and inferential statistics.

Results: According to the CAT, patients perceived the students’ communication and interpersonal skills to be “excellent” overall (97.2%). No significant differences were found between percentage of “excellent” responses and gender (p = .600), number of consultations (p = .374) or pain duration (p = .741).

Conclusions: Patients in this setting perceive student communication and interpersonal skills to be of a high standard. This can contribute positively to the patient–practitioner therapeutic alliance and may improve overall health outcomes. These findings have implications for communication training within student-led health professions clinics and tertiary curricula more broadly.


Anhang Price, R., Elliott, M. N., Zaslavsky, A. M., Hays, R. D., Lehrman, W. G., Rybowski, L., Edgman-Levitan, S., & Cleary, P. D. (2014). Examining the role of patient experience surveys in measuring health care quality. Medical Care Research and Review, 71(5), 522–554.

Black, N., Varaganum, M., & Hutchings, A. (2014). Relationship between patient reported experience (PREMs) and patient reported outcomes (PROMs) in elective surgery. BMJ Quality & Safety, 23(7), 534–542.

Boissy, A., Windover, A. K., Bokar, D., Karafa, M., Neuendorf, K., Frankel, R. M., Merlino, J., & Rothberg, M. B. (2016). Communication skills training for physicians improves patient satisfaction. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 31(7), 755–761.

Carrigan, N., Rodger, S., & Copley, J. (2001). Parent satisfaction with a paediatric occupational therapy service: A pilot investigation. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 21(1), 51–76.

DeBlasio, D., Real, F. J., Ollberding, N. J., & Klein, M. D. (2019). Provision of parent feedback via the Communication Assessment Tool: Does it improve resident communication skills? Academic Pediatrics, 19(2), 152–156.

Deveugele, M. (2015). Communication training: Skills and beyond. Patient Education and Counseling, 98(10), 1287–1291.

Dunsch, F., Evans, D. K., Macis, M., & Wang, Q. (2018). Bias in patient satisfaction surveys: A threat to measuring healthcare quality. BMJ Global Health, 3(2), e000694.

Hojat, M., DeSantis, J., & Gonnella, J. S. (2017). Patient perceptions of clinician’s empathy: Measurement and psychometrics. Journal of Patient Experience, 4(2), 78–83.

Kingsley, C., & Patel, S. (2017). Patient-reported outcome measures and patient-reported experience measures. BJA Education, 17(4), 137–144.

Kourkouta, L., & Papathanasiou, I. V. (2014). Communication in nursing practice. Mater Sociomed, 26(1), 65–67.

Leach, C. J., Mandy, A., Hankins, M., Bottomley, L. M., Cross, V., Fawkes, C. A., Fiske, A., & Moore, A. P. (2013). Patients’ expectations of private osteopathic care in the UK: A national survey of patients. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 13(1), Article 122.

Makoul, G., Krupat, E., & Chang, C.-H. (2007). Measuring patient views of physician communication skills: Development and testing of the Communication Assessment Tool. Patient Education and Counseling, 67(3), 333–342.

Mauksch, L. B., Dugdale, D. C., Dodson, S., & Epstein, R. (2008). Relationship, communication, and efficiency in the medical encounter: Creating a clinical model from a literature review. Archives of Internal Medicine, 168(13), 1387–1395.

Mercer, L. M., Tanabe, P., Pang, P. S., Gisondi, M. A., Courtney, D. M., Engel, K. G., Donlan, S. M., Adams, J. G., & Makoul, G. (2008). Patient perspectives on communication with the medical team: Pilot study using the Communication Assessment Tool-Team (CAT-T). Patient Education and Counseling, 73(2), 220–223.

Muddle, L., O'Malley, C. J., & Stupans, I. (2019). Learning and teaching of patient-centred communication skills in allied healthcare manual therapy students: A systematic review. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 32, 21–27.

Myerholtz, L., Simons, L., Felix, S., Nguyen, T., Brennan, J., Rivera-Tovar, A., Martin, P., Hepworth, J., & Makoul, G. (2010). Using the communication assessment tool in family medicine residency programs. Family Medicine, 42(8), 567–573.

O'Keeffe, M., Cullinane, P., Hurley, J., Leahy, I., Bunzli, S., O'Sullivan, P. B., & O'Sullivan, K. (2016). What influences patient–therapist interactions in musculoskeletal physical therapy? Qualitative systematic review and meta-synthesis. Physical Therapy, 96(5), 609–622.

O'Toole, G. (2020). Communication-eBook: Core interpersonal skills for healthcare professionals. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Osteopathy Australia. (2018). Statement of scope of practice in osteopathy.

Pestana-Santos, A., Loureiro, L., Santos, V., & Carvalho, I. (2018). Patients with schizophrenia assessing psychiatrists’ communication skills. Psychiatry Research, 269, 13–20.

Pinto, R. Z., Ferreira, M. L., Oliveira, V. C., Franco, M. R., Adams, R., Maher, C. G., & Ferreira, P. H. (2012). Patient-centred communication is associated with positive therapeutic alliance: A systematic review. Journal of Physiotherapy, 58(2), 77–87.

Salisbury, C., Burgess, A., Lattimer, V., Heaney, D., Walker, J., Turnbull, J., & Smith, H. (2005). Developing a standard short questionnaire for the assessment of patient satisfaction with out-of-hours primary care. Family Practice, 22(5), 560–569.

Stausmire, J. M., Cashen, C. P., Myerholtz, L., & Buderer, N. (2015). Measuring general surgery residents' communication skills from the patient's perspective using the Communication Assessment Tool (CAT). Journal of Surgical Education, 72(1), 108–116.

Street, R. L., Makoul, G., Arora, N. K., & Epstein, R. M. (2009). How does communication heal? Pathways linking clinician–patient communication to health outcomes. Patient Education and Counseling, 74(3), 295–301.

Thomson, O. P., & Collyer, K. (2017). "Talking a different language": A qualitative study of chronic low back pain patients' interpretation of the language used by student osteopaths. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 24, 3–11.

Vaughan, B., Burns, C., Burridge, L., Wigger, J., Blair, S., & Mulcahy, J. (2019). Patient satisfaction and perception of treatment in a student-led osteopathy teaching clinic: Evaluating questionnaire dimensionality and internal structure, and outcomes. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 31, 21–27.

Vermeir, P., Vandijck, D., Degroote, S., Peleman, R., Verhaeghe, R., Mortier, E., Hallaert, G., Van Daele, S., Buylaert, W., & Vogelaers, D. (2015). Communication in healthcare: A narrative review of the literature and practical recommendations. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 69(11), 1257–1267.

Vogel, D., Meyer, M., & Harendza, S. (2018). Verbal and non-verbal communication skills including empathy during history taking of undergraduate medical students. BMC Medical Education, 18(1), 1–7.

Yu, M. X., Jiang, X. Y., Li, Y. J., Shen, Z. Y., Zhuang, S. Q., & Gu, Y. F. (2018). Evaluation of medical record quality and communication skills among pediatric interns after standardized parent training history-taking in China. Medical Teacher, 40(2), 188–192.




How to Cite

Tripodi, N., Cossar, S., Davidson, J., Farmer, R., Gorbonos, J., McDonald, A., & Pierlot, M. (2021). Patient perceptions of allied health student communication and interpersonal skills: A cross-sectional study. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 22(3), 18–32.