Objectives Although empathy is generally seen as a desirable attribute for medical professionals, it has usually been assessed through self report measures, which fail to capture the expression of empathy skills in the context of the clinical setting. As a trial for a larger scale study, this study explored the interrater reliability and feasibility of assessing empathy through observer-ratings using videotaped simulated patient encounters.
Methods Forty-seven Year 4 students from an Australian Graduate School of Medicine participated in the study. Empathy was rated by two independent observers of the videotaped
simulated patient encounters, in the context of Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) stations. Empathy was assessed using the Rating Scales for the Assessment of Empathic Communication in Medical Interviews (REM).
Results Interrater reliability was assessed using generalisability theory. The magnitude of the
g-coefficients indicated a strong degree of agreement between the two raters on medical student empathy across the five different OSCE stations.
Conclusion: Assessing empathy using videotaped simulated patient encounters was found to have high interrater reliability and was a feasible method of assessment, providing a potential method for future research addressing empathy and clinical competence among medical students.