Emergency Department Team Communication with the Patient: The Patient's Perspective

Published:September 17, 2012DOI:



      Effective communication is important for the delivery of quality care. The Emergency Department (ED) environment poses significant challenges to effective communication.


      The objective of this study was to determine patients' perceptions of their ED team's communication skills.


      This was a cross-sectional study in an urban, academic ED. Patients completed the Communication Assessment Tool for Teams (CAT-T) survey upon ED exit. The CAT-T was adapted from the psychometrically validated Communication Assessment Tool (CAT) to measure patient perceptions of communication with a medical team. The 14 core CAT-T items are associated with a 5-point scale (5 = excellent); results are reported as the percent of participants who responded “excellent.” Responses were analyzed for differences based on age, sex, race, and operational metrics (wait time, ED daily census).


      There were 346 patients identified; the final sample for analysis was 226 patients (53.5% female, 48.2% Caucasian), representing a response rate of 65.3%. The scores on CAT-T items (reported as % “excellent”) ranged from 50.0% to 76.1%. The highest-scoring items were “let me talk without interruptions” (76.1%), “talked in terms I could understand” (75.2%), and “treated me with respect” (74.3%). The lowest-scoring item was “encouraged me to ask questions” (50.0%). No differences were noted based on patient sex, race, age, wait time, or daily census of the ED.


      The patients in this study perceived that the ED teams were respectful and allowed them to talk without interruptions; however, lower ratings were given for items related to actively engaging the patient in decision-making and asking questions.


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