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We’re delighted to welcome OET as a Gold Sponsor for the upcoming 6th edition of the international English for Healthcare conference.


OET is the world’s leading English for Healthcare test, used by healthcare regulators, border authorities, universities and employers across the globe to measure the English language skills of healthcare professionals. OET provides 12 versions of the test for different professions within healthcare – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, vets, podiatrists, dieticians, occupational therapists, optometrists, physiotherapists, radiographers, and speech and language therapists.

The exam has grown rapidly over recent years as it has gained recognition in English speaking countries with test centres springing up around the world, the implementation of computer-based and ‘at home’ remote delivery options, and multiple test dates to choose from. For teachers in English for Healthcare, preparing students for OET has become increasingly central to what so many do as healthcare professionals look to gain an internationally-recognised assessment of their professional English. Who recognises OET?

OET will be presenting at the conference and will be present throughout to spend time with delegates interested in finding out more about the test.


Read the abstracts and download the programme.

Join us at the conference!


                                                 Early-bird tickets on sale by JUNE 30th                                                  

      Save your place in campus accommodation by MAY 31th

The last five English for Healthcare conferences have all been marked by insightful, memorable and well-delivered plenaries, presentations and workshops – by leading academics, practitioners and authors. The upcoming sixth conference programme may be the best yet.

The world of English for Healthcare is rapidly changing. Language and communication are adapting to a sector undergoing huge changes driven by technology, migration and the impact of the recent pandemic. Education and how people learn has also been similarly impacted. For teachers, researchers and writers, the challenges of keeping courses, materials and pedagogy relevant are considerable.

The conference programme addresses many of these challenges. The plenaries – all given by well-known academics and researchers – look at communication between a globally mobile workforce and increasingly diverse patient bodies, how the arts crossover with medicine, and at how language impacts discourse on critical areas of healthcare such as vaccination.

The presentations cover the ups, downs and practical realities of using AI in English for Healthcare programmes and materials writing. Others examine the challenges of teaching in and across cultures as diverse as Cuba, India, Nigeria, Hungary and Algeria. There are sessions on the evolving approaches to assessment, materials writing and video creation, with focuses on OET, task-based learning, and project work. And there are more sessions on topics as wide-ranging as psychiatric interviewing, the experience of refugee healthcare professionals seeking to settle in English speaking countries, the use of person-first and identity-first language, having difficult conversations in a veterinary setting, and using literature in the classroom.

For anyone involved in designing, writing, or teaching English for healthcare courses, there is a wealth of content to be inspired by. At the end of the conference, you will have gained insights, knowledge and plenty of ideas to take home. Not only that, you will have met like-minded colleagues from around the world and had a ton of interesting conversations that you can continue into the future.

The sixth international English for Healthcare Conference takes place on September 6th and 7th at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School on the south coast of the UK. Read the abstracts and download the programme.

Early-bird tickets on sale by JUNE 30th

Save your place in campus accommodation by MAY 31th

The session provides a valuable insight for any teachers who are currently working on English in healthcare. Loredana talks about the importance of teaching soft skills in healthcare degree courses where compassion and caring are the milestones. Loredana shares her experience as language expert at the University of Verona, where her courses in communication skills are complemented with public speaking and academic writing.

Capsule works with medical schools offering a cutting-edge learning platform that brings clinical cases to life. It helps students gain confidence in their clinical reasoning skills by making diagnostic and therapeutic decisions and prepares them for the challenges of real-world clinical practice by using the quizzes based on realistic clinical scenarios.


An extensive clinical cases resource bank

Capsule is a medical learning app which contains over 700 clinical cases and 3,700 questions created by senior clinicians and the clinical faculty at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. It bridges the gap between theory and practice, and takes learning beyond textbooks.

Realistic clinical scenarios, developed to help learners to practise their diagnostic and decision-making skills, are sorted into four categories: Medicine, Specialties, Surgery, and Therapeutics. They include clinical cases, for example, from the field of haematology, neurology, neurosurgery, oncology, elderly care, paediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynaecology, general practice, infection, and anaesthesia. Each clinical case is followed by a single answer and multiple-choice quizzes with 3D models, X-ray and ECG images. Learners’ study results are scored, their progress within each category is monitored and extensive, immediate feedback is provided.

Capsule can be used anytime and anywhere. It can be accessed both, offline and online, via the website and mobile phone. The platform is suitable for individual students, but also it can be implemented into a university´s curriculum.

See the links below to explore more about this unique, dynamic learning tool that brings together clinical knowledge and innovation.


Further reading:

How to use Capsule the medical learning app for students?

What do Capsule users value most about the clinical learning platform?

Videos that introduce main features of the app:

Information for medical institutions

Information for students

The English for Healthcare conference is a unique event aimed to the exchange of ideas, to stimulate discussion, and to provide a platform for the presentation of new ideas, approaches, and material to the understanding of, and teaching of, language and communication in healthcare. We’re delighted to announce our first three sponsors.



Gold Sponsor – Capsule

Capsule is a digital clinical case-based learning resource which combines trusted clinical cases, medical services, and analytics to drive medical knowledge across the entire curriculum. Capsule has 700+ realistic scenarios which let students improve their decision making with instant feedback to gain the skills to apply and impress on the ward. For more information:


Gold Sponsor – Specialist Language Courses (SLC)

SLC publish over 850 hours of online Medical English and Test Preparation (OET and IELTS) materials used by medical universities, nursing colleges, English language schools and healthcare employers worldwide. Content can be mapped to curricula, from short courses to degree courses, and integrated into existing learning platforms. Teachers can track student work, set assignments, leave feedback and invite learners to Zoom sessions. The learning platform can be branded and customised, offering students a seamless learning experience.

For more information:


Silver Sponsor – Express Publishing

Established in 1988, Express Publishing aims to bridge the gap between educational research and everyday teaching practice. By combining digital tools and 21st-century learning methodologies, the company strives to be innovative at every step of the learning process. Express Publishing currently exports to 140 countries, has formed numerous strategic partnerships that include ministerial adoptions, and recently launched DigiPlus, an AI-powered platform that is responsive to learners’ ever-evolving needs. The company’s mission is to ‘excite, explore, and excel.’

For more information:


Would you like to join our sponsors?

If you’re interested in sponsoring the English for Healthcare conference, please get in touch for details:


For more information on the conference, download the flyer and visit the conference website.

6th English for Healthcare Conference, Brighton 2024


The English for Healthcare conference is a fantastic opportunity to get up-to-date with the all the great things happening in the global world of healthcare English, as well as meet and network with fellow practitioners, researchers and academics working in English for Healthcare and OET preparation. We’re delighted to have no less than 3 eminent keynote speakers from the world of medical language and communication.


Professor John Skelton

John Skelton is Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Clinical Science at the University of Birmingham in the UK. As Professor of Clinical Communication, he founded and led the Interactive Studies Unit (ISU), which researches and teaches aspects of medical language and communication to health professionals, and students of the health professions, both nationally and further afield. John has published widely in Clinical Communication, Applied Linguistics and related areas, with research published in The Lancet, BMJ, Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching Journal, amongst many others. He is well-known to EALTHY members for his memorable presentations at previous conferences and as Chair of the Association.



Dr Zsofia Demjen

Zsofia is Associate Professor at University College London. She works at the intersections of language, mind and healthcare, examining the language used by patients, carers, healthcare professionals, journalists, poets, and writers in metaphor, im/politeness, personal pronouns, negation, narratives and humour, among others. Zsofia is widely published through research articles, chapters in multiple books, has written, edited and co-written books, including Applying Linguistics in Illness and Healthcare Contexts (Bloomsbury, 2020) and Researching Language and Health, A Student Guide (Routledge, 2023).



Dr Emma Brooks

Emma is a lecturer in Language Learning and Intercultural Communication and Honorary Research Fellow at University College London, Institute of Education. Her work centres on the interface between language and healthcare, looking at how medical professionals and patients engage effectively in diverse linguistic environments. She has particular interests in translanguaging, intercultural communication, superdiversity and the role of language in facilitating (in)equalities in healthcare environments.


Early Bird tickets are now on sale. Until June 30th members pay £120 and non-members £160.

Afterwards, tickets will be £150 for members and £190 for non-members.  To become a member, go to Member Benefits.

Download the Conference Flyer

6th English for Healthcare Conference, Brighton 2024






For non-EEA doctors wanting to recertify in the UK, passing the OET is only the start of the journey: they still have to take the GMC’s PLAB exam, Part 2 of which is an OSCE-style assessment of clinical communication skills. It’s a daunting test and the average pass rate is just 66%.

To what extent do the speaking skills we teach OET candidates prepare them for the PLAB 2? As OET trainers, could we be doing more to help them bridge the gap between the two exams? Do you have unsuccessful PLAB 2 candidates asking you for help?

In this session, Richard Furn gives an overview of the PLAB for OET trainers and medical English teachers involved in OSCE-style role play work. He explains:

  • what the PLAB 2 is and how it differs from the OET;
  • how he works with candidates and what they find hard;
  • how PLAB 2 coaching has informed his OET speaking work.

In this session, Dr. Shelley Staples, a corpus linguist and healthcare communication researcher, discusses findings from key corpus linguistics studies in the medical context and how these findings could be applied to classroom instruction. Findings of relevance for both written and oral communication will be discussed. Participants will also be given an opportunity to brainstorm how to apply findings to their own teaching context within medical English education.

Read some of her research papers on this topic:

Examining the linguistic needs of internationally educated nurses: A corpus-based study of lexico-grammatical features in nurse–patient interactions

Virginia and Emma discussed issues and challenges when working with people with learning disabilities and Emma´s multiple roles she is currently involved in. Finally, Emma talked about the areas of Dietetics that she hopes may be focused on in the future.


Emma, who is an expert on adult learning disabilities related to dietetics, started her career as a support worker for people with learning disabilities. As a dietician, she has worked in a variety of settings such as community clinics, nursing and care homes, and various hospital wards. In clinical practice, she specializes in learning disabilities related to dysphagia (swallowing difficulties). She is currently also involved in a wide range of supporting programs and projects for healthcare professionals in the field of Dietetics.

In the webinar, Virginia and Emma discussed the following issues and challenges when working with people with learning disabilities:

  • What to consider when making a nutrition plan: medical conditions, a patient´s dietary preferences.
  • Gathering accurate information: asking appropriate questions, availability of information provided by a patient.
  • Communication skills needed to be sure that a healthcare professional´s message is understood by a patient.
  • Barriers in communication with a patient: environment factors, medical vs everyday language, processing the question and information by the patient.
  • Challenges in communication: a patient´s ability to use and understand verbal and non-verbal language; the use of sign language, practical demonstrations, pictures of objects vs physical objects; a patient´s change of behaviour as a way of communication.
  • Multidisciplinary approach: cooperating with various kinds of therapists (speech language therapist, occupational therapist), allied doctors and nurses (gastroenterologist, dietetic assistant practitioner, dietetics support worker), and other professionals (social worker, psychologist).
  • Difference between learning disability and learning difficulty.
  • Average life expectancy and poor health outcomes related to learning disabilities: constipation, osteoporosis, undernutrition, obesity, and risk for developing related conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes.

Emma also described the other multiple roles she is currently involved in:

  • As a Practice Support Mentor Lead,she supports a wide range of allied healthcare professionals. She helps students and newly qualified healthcare professionals to integrate into the medical staff community within the local area through the Integrated Care System (ICS).
  • As a Professional Midwifery Advocate (PMA), she provides midwives with information on their professional development, education programs available, or gives them advice when applying for a job.
  • She participates in various projects. She provides incoming overseas healthcare professionals with all information they need for working in the UK. She also works as a reviewer of how the apprenticeship standards and requirements are met by newly qualified healthcare professionals and supports them in their professional development.

Finally, Emma talked about the areas of Dietetics that she hopes may be focused on in the future, including health promotion programs and better understanding of modifiable risk factors from a dietary perspective.

Watch the webinar here.

During the webinar, Emma will discuss the needs of people with learning difficulties which lead to poor health outcomes, including dysphagia, diabetes, obesity, and ageing-related issues. She will talk about communication challenges when working with people with learning difficulties including clients who are non-verbal or who have difficulty understanding abstract ideas and give examples of ways that she has found to manage these challenges.

Emma will also talk about her new role as a Practice Support Mentor Lead supporting a range of allied healthcare professionals including international recruits, newly qualified and return to practice staff. She’ll outline the importance of mentorship of emerging allied healthcare professionals, particularly those who are neurodiverse and may need additional support. Finally, Emma will talk about the areas of dietetics she hopes may be focused on in the future, including health promotion programs and better understanding of modifiable risk factors from a dietary perspective.

Since qualifying as a Dietitian in 2012, Emma has worked in a range of acute and community settings, specialising in adult learning disabilities. Her current role is Practice Support Mentor Lead which encompasses support for AHP learners by making connections with current and potential placement providers and Higher Education Institutions.

The need to learn foreign languages has not changed over the past decade. The catastrophic scenarios that English will take over to the detriment of other languages has not happened. But English remains the lingua franca of a modern globalized world allowing us to cross borders in the fields of business, politics, education, research, healthcare, and culture. Current and future challenges should look for a balance between AI-generated language and feedback and the teacher´s personalized, student-centred approach and focus on providing high-quality teacher training at universities using communicative methods to teach English along with the use of modern technology and media should be focused on. Particular attention still needs to be paid to children and learners for whom English is the second or even a foreign language which is not spoken at home but only in school. The authorities in each sector and region of the world should aim to ensure equal access to the development of an individual´s English proficiency both for personal and professional purposes.

The Education First English Proficiency Index 2023” (EF EPI) report compared English language skills of adults in 113 countries, 1200 cities and 5 world regions according to their proficiency level in reading and listening competence. It covers the aspects of English proficiency in relation to economy (productivity and workforce), innovation (research and talent competitiveness), work (industry and job function), society (social mobility and gender equality), and the future (environment and freedom). The EF Standard English Test (EF SET) used is a free, adaptive, standardized English test of reading and listening skills.

The research summary in the Research section presents the key findings of this report. In the article in the Member section, you can read the extended version of the report summary. It includes more details about rationales and methodology, a list of TOP 3 countries in each category assessed, a list of ideas for teachers and schools on how they can improve the English proficiency of their learners, and a reference to the EF EPI reports from 2011-2022 and the reports which compared the EF Standard English Test (EF SET) with IELTS and TOEFL.

What this research was about and why it is important

The need to learn foreign languages, and namely English as the main communication medium, has not changed over the past decade. This research summary presents key findings of the “Education First English Proficiency Index 2023” (EF EPI) report. This report contains a ranking of 113 countries, 1200 cities and 5 world regions according to their proficiency levels in reading and listening competence. It also briefly describes the methodology used and provides a list of ideas for teachers and schools on how they can improve the English proficiency of their learners.

What the researchers did

  • The report covers aspects of English proficiency in relation to economy (productivity and workforce), innovation (research and talent competitiveness), work (industry and job function), society (social mobility and gender equality), and the future (environment and freedom). It also provides infographics about the proficiency score, gender, age group, and the top region and city in each participating country by world region.
  • The EF Standard English Test (EF SET) used is “an online, adaptive English test of reading and listening skills. It is a standardized, objectively scored test designed to classify test takers´ language abilities into one of the six levels established by the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)”.1 The test is available online for free and could easily be used by you and your students.

What the researchers found

  • In 2023, a total number of participants (working adults and young adults finishing their studies) was 2.2 million, out of which 55% were female test takers and 45% male test takers aged 18-60 years old, with the average age of 26.
  • The report compared the proficiency level achieved in each participating country, the proficiency level in a particular world region and 1200 cities in these countries. 113 countries were compared: Europe (34), Asia (23), Latin America (20), Africa (23), and Middle East (13).
  • The EF EPI 2023 scores were found to correlate strongly with TOEFL iBT 2021 scores and IELTS Academic Test 2022 scores. Although these three tests have different design and target test takers, they revealed similar trends in national English proficiency.
  • Out of the total number, the top 3 countries with the best score were the Netherlands, Singapore, and Austria, and the top 3 cities included Amsterdam (Netherlands), Vienna (Austria), Copenhagen (Denmark).

Things to consider

Recommendations for teachers, schools and universities1 include the following:

  • Use a communication-based methodology.
  • Focus on acts of communication rather than on mistakes.
  • Engage students outside of the classroom with English-language media
  • Give students frequent opportunities to speak, e. g. English clubs, theme days, trips, guest speakers.
  • Provide a forum for teachers to share best practices and get advice about teaching English effectively.
  • Give teachers of all subjects the opportunity to improve their English.
  • Include English language requirements for all university majors.
  • Allow subject classes to be taught in English.
  • Create a remedial English program to help those who have fallen behind.


1Education First (2023). EF EPI: EF English Proficiency Index – A Ranking of 113 Countries and Regions by English Skills. Signum International AG. Full-text available here:
2EF Standard English Test (EF SET) – EF SET Certificate.

In this webinar, Peter talked about the LGBTQIA+ identity, their experiences in healthcare, issues and assumptions, and made suggestions about the use of appropriate language. He also showed an example of his ELT materials incorporating family and relationships vocabulary. The main take-away message of the webinar is the call for making the LGBTQIA+ community more visible in teaching resources and the use of inclusive language when building a doctor-patient rapport.


Peter explained what the acronym LGBTQIA+ stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, plus other identities such as genderfluid, pansexual, etc. He described differences between the terms: sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. He suggested using alternative vocabulary: “chosen family” vs “nuclear family”, adjectives “cis” vs “trans”, avoiding an assumption that everybody is straight, and recognizing themselves as she or he, mother and father, husband and wife.

He created a short practical guide called LGBTQIA+ identities in English Language Teaching (ELT), which contains lists of vocabulary, listening, writing, reading and speaking activities on topics such as family, jobs, life events, school and education, sex and gender, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, and gender identity. The guide is free upon subscribing to Peter´s mailing list. More teaching resources developed by him can be found at his website.

Further information about statistics, issues, and challenges, can be found in the following reports presented by Peter:

Watch the webinar here.

It is a call for leaders to invest in health systems and primary healthcare for all – leaving no one behind. The International Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day aims to raise awareness of the need for strong and resilient health systems and universal health coverage with multi-stakeholder partners. The general message of their annual campaigns is to highlight the need to protect everyone regardless of where they live and to ensure that they have access to primary healthcare. The main three areas of interest of the UHC focus on population coverage, service coverage, and financial protection.

The 2023 theme Health for All: Time for Action is to remind us that with the increasing number of climate-related threats, countries must invest in resilient and equitable health systems with primary care as the foundation. The subthemes focus on specific actions such as:

  • Investing in universal health coverage
  • Strengthening health systems
  • Expanding primary healthcare
  • Working across sectors and communities
  • Promoting innovation to reach everyone

 Resources for classroom activities:


Throughout 2023 we aimed to provide a range of development webinars for EALTHY members on a regular basis. Looking back on the year, we are delighted to have been able to offer regular webinars on a wide range of topics linked to English for Healthcare. For 2024, we will continue to deliver regular webinars for EALTHY members.

Call for Webinar Speakers 

We are looking for experienced teachers, researchers and healthcare practitioners who would like to participate as speakers in our live online events in 2024. Do you have English for Healthcare expertise to share? Webinars are a great opportunity to collaborate with EALTHY to showcase your expertise. 

  • Have you completed research into language or communication in healthcare? 
  • Have you tried out some teaching approaches in your healthcare classroom that you’d like to share with other teachers?
  • Are you a healthcare practitioner who would like to share insights into communication from your professional experience?

Based on the feedback from EALTHY members in the recent survey, in 2024 there will be 3 main themes for the webinars 

  • Teaching: Practical teaching ideas and tips for your healthcare English classes 
  • Research: Experts in their field discuss research in language and healthcare
  • In-conversation with…: Question and answer sessions with healthcare practitioners, giving insights into English Language and Healthcare Communication used in a healthcare setting 

 If you would like to take part in live online events in 2024, please fill out the EALTHY Live online events – Speaker Proposal Form 2024 here EALTHY Live online events – Speaker Proposal Form 2024  

We would like to thank each of the speakers for taking time out of their schedules to deliver fascinating talks on their own area of expertise. We’d also like to thank you, the EALTHY members, for coming along, taking part and asking thought-provoking questions. You can find the recording of each webinar in the members section in Video section.

This B2-C1 lesson looks at language for occupational health interventions. It includes speaking, vocabulary and reading activities.

Have you wondered what the experience is of LGBTQIA+ people in healthcare? Or what LGBTQIA+ actually means? How difficult is it to represent LGBTQIA+ identities in materials?

In this teacher development webinar, Peter will explore the basics of the LGBTQIA+ identity to help familiarise attendees with the community. He’ll also present information regarding LGBTQIA+ people’s experiences of healthcare in the UK, alongside assumptions and challenges. Peter will then look at suggestions for healthcare professionals and demonstrate how LGBTQIA+ identities can be included in English Language materials.

Save the Date!

We’re delighted to announce that the next English for Healthcare conference will take place on September 6th and 7th 2024. It will be held at and in partnership with the prestigious Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) in the beautiful campus of the University of Sussex in the UK. BSMS is a partnership between the University of Brighton, the University of Sussex and National Health Service Trusts across the Surrey and Sussex region. It has an excellent reputation for both teaching and research, with courses that integrate the development of academic knowledge with clinical experience.

The local organiser will be EALTHY partners, Specialist Language Courses (SLC), who have offices at the University of Sussex. SLC is an e-learning company that provides English language services to the global healthcare community. SLC develops and publishes digital learning content which can be used as standalone study or integrated with online tutored programmes.

As ever, the English for Healthcare conference will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase all the great things that are happening in the global world of English for Healthcare – from classroom practice to research to assessment to the impact of technology and AI – and everything in between. The conference will also give delegates the chance to see Capsule, the digital clinical case-based learning resource developed by BSMS for medical universities which combines trusted clinical cases, medical scenarios and analytics to drive medical knowledge among learners.

The Call for Papers will be coming soon, so watch the conference website!

The webinar offered a comprehensive approach to understanding and teaching the OET Reading and Listening sub-tests, described common challenges, and recommended effective strategies and resources to help the learners improve their skills.


Joanne Bass, an OET Educator Specialist for EMEA, gave an introduction to the Occupational English Test (OET) certificate, which is used to prove sufficient level of English proficiency for overseas healthcare professionals, ranging from doctors, nurses, dentists to pharmacists and veterinary professionals, who wish to apply for a job in English-speaking countries. In total, there are 12 profession specialized tests of communication skills required for clinical practice in the UK.

She described sub-skills within each sub-test, for example, writing a letter, understanding written clinical case notes, role-playing, understanding spoken presentation and clinical consultations. She also described in more detail the three parts of the Listening and Reading sub-tests.

The webinar was not only informative, but also interactive. Joanne interviewed the webinar participants about challenges that both a teacher and a learner may encounter in terms of listening and reading skills.

Watch the webinar to find out more about:

  • The examples of the most common challenges Joanne observed in her practice
  • The strategies and solutions recommended
  • Useful websites and tools – listening and reading resources, for example, OET sample tests OET feedback forms, OET YouTube channel, Teacher handbook
  • Tips and ideas on listening and reading tasks
  • The use of the authentic materials

Butow, P., Hogue, E. (2020). Using artificial intelligence to analyse and teach communication in healthcare. The Breast, 50, 49-55.

What this research was about and why it is important

This research is based on the following premises on communication in healthcare:

  • Clinical communication skills are essential to determine a patient´s correct diagnosis, to decide on appropriate treatment and to achieve optimal patient outcomes.
  • There is a close link between a healthcare professional’s communication skills and a patient’s capacity to understand, recall and follow medical recommendations.
  • A clinician’s ability to listen and empathize with a patient’s emotions can have a profound effect on a patient’s psychological and functional outcomes, their experience of care, and their satisfaction with it.
  • A clinician’s experience of and confidence in their communication with patients can impact their own levels of occupational satisfaction, stress and burnout.
  • Healthcare professionals with poor communication skills face a higher risk of being sued by dissatisfied patients.

The researchers believe that the training of clinical communication skills should be theoretically- and empirically-based, and trainees deserve accurate feedback based on reliable and valid assessment methods. They compared the approach of human-based communication skills assessment techniques with AI-driven training systems. The main advantages of AI-driven systems are their availability at any time (human auditors might be busy with other tasks) and the elimination of trainees´ hesitations to seek help and accept feedback from a  colleague. Using AI-generated teaching resources and avatars in communication skills training can be helpful in building trust with patients, showing empathy and providing arguments and recommendations for treatment procedure in challenging situations. However, despite the promising developments of AI-based training models, the researchers recommend using the technology as an adjunctive assessment approach and teaching method.

What the researchers did

  • They reviewed literature which described the role of good clinical communication skills and interaction analysis systems.
  • They described the characteristics of human-operated interaction analysis systems and machine learning algorithms.
  • They provided a summary of some key developments in the field of AI-driven applications for clinical communication skills assessment.
  • They suggested objective metrics which could be identified by AI, e. g. word/sentence length and structure, use of clinical jargon; turn-taking in interaction between a healthcare professional and a patient, their intonation, pitch and pace, and then used this to provide feedback and comparison with peers to trainees, in a safe, confidential setting.

What the researchers found

  • They pointed out the controversy in promoting modern approaches such as shared-decision-making and patient-centred care, in opposition to a doctor-centred communication style. The studies revealed that many patients don´t want to share decisions when they feel they have inadequate expertise and are vulnerable and in need of reassurance rather than autonomy. In other studies, patients preferred a paternalistic style of communication when they were explained the diagnosis and treatment procedures, and a more patient-centred style when discussing emotive issues such as prognosis.
  • They presented the most common interaction analysis systems typically used to describe task-oriented and socio-emotional behaviour (e. g. giving lifestyle-related information, showing reassurance, agreement), but the systems differ in clinical focus and communication modes (verbal and/or non-verbal communication). In general, the selected systems showed reliable and valid data about clinical communication. However, the data still need to be processed by a human auditor, either with or without computerized support.
  • They found out that AI applications have established moderate to good reliability of machine learning algorithms, comparable with human coding (or better). Recent advances in machine learning have allowed accurate textual transcription from speech, recognition of psycholinguistic features such as word level prosody, pauses, energy, intonation, understanding of the semantics and sentiment of the utterance, emotions and communication style both on document and sentence level.
  • They suggest using avatars instead of simulated patients in clinical communication training, which demonstrated promising outcomes in some studies. An avatar can help in teaching empathy and dealing with ethical dilemmas, giving arguments and information to a patient to make decision on treatment.

Things to consider

  • To date, most applications have been limited, targeting only a few concepts, and not yet investigating complex inter-relationships between variables. It remains important to generate evidence about the feasibility, reliability, acceptability and effectiveness of AI applications before their broad implementation.
  • Developing the AI algorithms is promising because they make data generating and processing stages of the audit cost-effective, faster and more available.
  • The biggest future challenges of developing AI applications used for data collection and analysis include creating more accurate algorithms for coding socio-emotional moves in human interaction and non-verbal behaviour, mainly facial expressions, gestures, and body movement.
  • Further research will be also needed in exploring how authentic the experience of obtaining computerised feedback is to learners, and whether machine learning can produce insights that reflect the true complexity of doctor-patient communication.


Read the full-text here: