Entrustment in physician-patient communication: a modified Delphi study using the EPA approach

Ayesha Younas, Rehan Ahmed Khan, Raheela Yasmin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Competency based curricula across the globe stress on the importance of effective physician patient communication. A variety of courses have been used to train physicians for this purpose. However, few of them link competencies with practice resulting in confusions in implementation and assessment. This issue can be resolved by treating certain specific patient communication related tasks as acts of entrustment or entrustable professional activities (EPAs). In this study, we aimed to define a competency-based framework for assessing patient physician communication using the language of EPAs.

A modified Delphi study was conducted in three stages. The first stage was an extensive literature review to identify and elaborate communication related tasks which could be treated as EPAs. The second stage was content validation by medical education experts for clarity and representativeness. The third stage was three iterative rounds of modified Delphi with predefined consensus levels. The McNemar test was used to check response stability in the Delphi Rounds.

Expert consensus resulted in development of 4 specific EPAs focused on physician-patient communication with their competencies and respective assessment strategies all aiming for level 5 of unsupervised practice. These include Providing information to the patient or their family about diagnosis or prognosis; Breaking Bad news to the patient or their family; Counseling a patient regarding their disease or illness; Resolving conflicts with patients or their families.

The EPAs for Physician-patient communication are a step toward an integrative, all-inclusive competency-based assessment framework for patient-centered care. They are meant to improve the quality of physician patient interaction by standardizing communication as a decision of entrustment. The EPAs can be linked to competency frameworks around the world and provide a useful assessment framework for effective training in patient communication. They can be integrated into any post graduate curriculum and can also serve as a self-assessment tool for postgraduate training programs across the globe to improve their patient communication curricula.
Original languageEnglish
Article number497 (2021)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medical Education
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished online - 20 Sept 2021


  • Assessment of communication
  • Competency based education
  • communication curriculum
  • Entrustable professional activities
  • Postgraduate studies
  • Modified Delphi study
  • physician-patient communication


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