Training Improves Oncologists' Communication Skills

Improvements seen during consultations focusing on the transition to palliative care

TUESDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Oncologists who participated in COM-ON-p (concise and individualized communication skills training [CST]), have significantly improved communication skills during consultations with patients with cancer, according to a study published online Aug. 8 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Tanja Goelz, from the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg in Germany, and colleagues examined the effect of COM-ON-p on improving oncologists' communication skills during consultations focusing on the transition to palliative care. A total of 41 physicians were randomized to control (CG) or intervention groups (IG). All physicians held two video-recorded consultations with actor-patient pairs at baseline, after which, physicians in the IG took part in COM-ON-p, involving an 11-hour workshop (1.5 days), pre- and post-assessment (two hours each) and coaching (0.5 hours). Actor patients in small groups helped physicians practice individual learning goals. A second assessment took place five weeks after the first. Communication behavior of the physicians in video-recorded actor-patient consultations was assessed by blinded raters using a specific checklist.

The investigators found that, compared to physicians in the CG, there were significant improvements among physicians in the IG in all three sections of the COM-ON-p checklist, including skills specific to the transition to palliative care, global communication skills, and involvement of significant others. Significant differences were seen the two groups on the global items of communication skills and involvement of significant others. A 0.5-point improvement, on average, was observed on a five-point rating scale with effect sizes varying from medium to large.

"Physicians can be trained to meet better core challenges during the transition to palliative care through developed concise CST," the authors write.

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