Effective Patient-Clinician Communication

Improved healthcare communication can often lead to better health outcomes for patients.

Improved healthcare communication can often lead to better health outcomes for patients.

To examine how to optimize the patient-clinician relationship, a multidisciplinary expert panel was convened by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, who created draft guidelines, which were published online before print on September 11, 2017.

The panel consisted of experts in medical oncology, psychiatry, nursing, hospice and palliative medicine, communication skills, health disparities, and patient advocacy.

Guideline development included a systematic review of the literature published from 2006 through October 2016 followed by a group consensus process.

The guidelines include recommendations for core communication skills, such as reviewing information, the patient’s goals, and prognosis.

Before discussing specific treatment options with the patient, clinicians should clarify the goals of treatment and discuss treatment options in a way that preserves patient hope, promotes autonomy, and facilitates understanding.

Clinicians should initiate conversations about patients’ end-of-life preferences early in the course of treatment and have ongoing conversations about end-of-life care during treatment. Families or other significant others need to be included in these conversations, per patient preference.

In addition, the cost of care and the needs of underserved populations should be addressed.

The communications guidelines are available here.

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