Improving doctor-patient communication
I am delighted to learn that the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has launched an online education program that coaches healthcare professionals on skills they may never have been taught in medical school. Sadly too often, there is a gap in this area. I know that I sometimes came away frustrated or upset after a consultation with my oncologist, because I felt my fears, in particular related to my fertility concerns, were not being listened to.
My husband, who as a scientist and a typical male, couldn’t understand what my issue was – “the man’s saving your life, you don’t need him to be Mr Touchy Feely” was his usual response. He just didn’t get it! I also remember the way I was told I had cancer by my breast surgeon, again a great breast surgeon, but a hopeless communicator. Thank goodness for the breast care nurse, who patiently and kindly explained what was happening after the consultation and was there for me anytime I had a question. They truly are the unsung heroes of the oncology world.
So back to M.D. Anderson’s I*CARE, or Interpersonal Communication and Relationship Enhancement, program. It is designed to teach clinicians, especially oncologists, the communication and relationship skills necessary to manage challenging patient or family encounters. Focused chiefly on cancer care and related issues, the site is free and accessible to any physician, nurse, or healthcare provider and is available at www.mdanderson.org/icare.
Accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation, the site includes video lectures and other resources to improve patient/physician communication and enhance patient care and outcomes. The most commonly accessed topics include effective listening, breaking bad news, error disclosure, and end-of-life issues, as well as sharing information about complementary therapies and caring for the patient caregiver.
Let’s hope it makes a real difference to the way patients are communicated with. But perhaps you have a different story? How was the communciation between you and your medical team? Write in and let us know…..