Blended-learning training in communication skills using for primary care faculty in Brazil

Gustavo Salata ROMAO*

University of Riberirao Preto, Medical Course, Brazil

Lucelio Bernardes Couto

University of Riberirao Preto, Medical Course, Brazil

Reinaldo Bulgarelli Bestetti

University of Riberirao Preto, Medical Course, Brazil

Suely Grosseman

Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil

Corresponding Author:
Gustavo Salata ROMAO
University of Riberirao Preto
Medical Course, Brazil
E-mail: [email protected]
Visit for more related articles at Quality in Primary Care


Blended-learning; communication skills;; primary care; faculty training; role play; family health strategy


Brazil’s national health system is expanding toward universal coverage as a result of the Family Health Strategy (FHS), a community-based approach where interdisciplinary health care teams provide primary care for a geographically defined population. FHS teams are composed of a physician, a nurse, a nurse assistant and four to six full-time community health agents and each team member has defined roles and responsibilities.1 Community health agents are lay members of the community selected and trained to provide care management around where they live. Each agent provides a set of activities in health promotion and basic clinical care. They verify if patients have been taking their medications regularly, help patients to schedule appointments in the healthcare unit, look for risk factors such as smoking and symptoms of common chronic disease and identify warning signs of violence, neglect or drug abuse 1. The access and adherence of the families to the FHS can be strengthened by the patient-centered communication approach once it promotes partnership between the patient and health professionals, offering the opportunity to empower patients to become more active in managing their health.2,3,4 Patient-centered communication approach has been associated with improvement of clinical parameters of chronic diseases.4 The “Project Leonardo” demonstrated the benefits of a collaborative “team” consisting of physicians, care manager nurses and specialists working as “patients partners” to change in a positive way some clinical indicators related to cardiovascular disease such as LDL levels, BMI rating and blood pressure values 4. For this reason, communication skills should be part of the undergraduate medical curriculum and of the healthcare professional team training.4,5 However, instruction in doctor-patient communication skills remains a challenge for many medical schools with some concerns regarding the diversity of faculty specialties and the lack of faculty training in communication skills.5,6 Therefore, faculty should be prepared to teach these abilities.5


The objective of this study was to evaluate the perception of primary health care faculty about a blended-learning training program.


All the eight primary care faculty working in FHS in the medical course of the University of Ribeirao Preto (Brazil) (five doctors and three nurses) were invited to participate in a one month training in communication skills using two modules of the DocCom program. The main characteristics of the participants are summarized in Table 1. DocCom is a webbased resource with multi-media features including videos demonstrating the communication skills taught developed by the American Academy of Health Communication in Health Care and Drexel University College of Medicine and two of its modules translated into Portuguese (“Building relationship” and “Gathering Information”) were used for faculty training: 7. In a four-week period from October to November in 2014, the faculty watched both modules individually and subsequently participated in a reflective group discussion about their practice and in a role-play activity in which they rehearsed the main skills used in primary care. During the role-play activity faculty alternated their roles as doctors, nurses, patients and observers and provided feedback to each other. After the role-play the participants expressed their perceptions and opinions about the training by answering a structured questionnaire.

Participant Number Characteristics
1 Gynecologist, working in primary care and FHS for 15 years, responsible for the Primary Care Area in Medical Course
2 Gynecologist, working in primary care and FHS for 11 years
3 Gynecologist, working in primary care and FHS for 6 years
4 Pediatrician, working in primary care and FHS for 15 years
5 General practitioner, working in primary care and FHS for 7 years
6 Nurse, working in management of care, primary care and FHS for 7 years
7 Nurse, working in public health, primary care and and FHS for 8 years
8 Nurse, working in primary care and FHS for 12 years
Table 1: Participants characteristics


The main results of this study are summarized in Table 2. Most participants stated that the training resulted in acquisition of new skills (87.5%), that the knowledge acquired could be applied in their working environment (75%) and that the methodology facilitated the training (75%). The general practitioners highlighted the applicability of the inverted cone (starting with open-ended questions and progressing to more specific closed questions) in patient interviews. The nurses pointed out that these skills would be very useful for students and community health agents in the context of home visits.

Statements Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
The training resulted in acquisition of new skills 7 (87.5%) 0 0 1 (12.5%) 0
The knowledge acquired could be applied in the working environment 6 (75%) 0 2 (25%) 0 0
The methodology facilitated the training 6 (75%) 0 2 (25%) 0 0
Table 2: Results of structured questionnaire responses


With declining resources and rising costs for attending conferences, there is a need to identify innovative ways for faculty training. The use of the open-access web-based format has been growing rapidly in medical education, especially in low and middle-income countries. In these countries several e-learning programs, tools and modalities have been applied including blended teaching platforms.8 In our study we used two DocCom modules and a role-play activity in which faculty rehearsed the main skills used in primary care. Role-play makes an important contribution in communication skills training, considering the validity of simulation, the deliberate practice, and feedback provided for this tool.9 Peer role-play is relatively easy to put into practice, allows exchange of experiences from both physician and patient perspectives, and leads to a better understanding of what is involved in physician-patient interaction.10 The blended-learning model combines a webbased format with a face-to-face activity and its effectiveness has been proved in terms of improvements of knowledge, clinical skill, attitude, and learner satisfaction.11 In our study we used this strategy for faculty training in communication skills and it was considered suitable for most participants. Furthermore the nurses involved in the pilot study intend to implement communication skills acquired during this training in the context of home visits, what means an improvement of FHS effectiveness. One limitation of this study was the small number of participants but this group included the totality of faculty involved in FHS in our medical course. We suggest similar studies in other institutions to confirm our findings.


These results suggest that the blended-learning model for primary care faculty training in communication skills using DocCom modules followed by role-play is suitable and useful. Furthermore, these skills could be applied during home visits in FHS.

Ethical Approval(S)

This study was conducted according to the Declaration of Helsinki and the project was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the University of Ribeirao Preto. All participants consent has been obtained and all reasonable steps to maintain patient confidentiality have been taken.


Brazil FAIMER Regional Institute

Source of funding

University of Ribeirao Preto

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest for any authors related to this work


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