Communication Skills Training For Oncologists Helps Both Patients and Providers

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Yosuke Uchitomi, MD, PhD
Professor and Chairman,
Department of Neuropsychiatry,
Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmaceutical Sciences,
Okayama, Japan

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Uchitomi: This study demonstrated the effect of communication skills training (CST) consisted of didactic lecture, role-plays, and peer discussion for oncologists with extensive experience in comprehensive cancer center hospitals in improving the psychological distress of cancer patients as well as oncologist performances and confidence in communicating with patients, using a randomized design.  Reasons for this positive result might include that the communication skills training program had been developed based on patient preferences regarding the communication of bad news and oncologists’ needs.

MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Uchitomi: All communication skills dealt with in the communication skills training program enhanced the oncologists’ repertoire for dealing with difficult situations clinically. Interestingly, these increased performance skills did not prolong the consultation time. This result suggests the possibility that a patient’s psychological distress can be reduced without increasing demands on the labor of oncologists in busy clinical practice.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Uchitomi: Communication skills (setting up the supporting environment of the interview, make consideration for how to deliver the bad news, provision reassurance and addressing the patient’s emotion with empathetic responses) that comply with patient preferences can be taught to oncologists with extensive experience and their utilization decreases patient distress.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Uchitomi: We need to evaluate the long-term effects, that oncologists who participated in a CST workshop maintained their communication skills at a high level a few months or years.

Furthermore, our study might provide a direction for future research in the application of CST for more health professionals in oncological practice, in order to help oncologists deal with unrecognized distress among patients diagnosed with cancer.

Citation:

Effect of Communication Skills Training Program for Oncologists Based on Patient Preferences for Communication When Receiving Bad News: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Maiko Fujimori, Yuki Shirai, Mariko Asai, Kaoru Kubota, Noriyuki Katsumata, and Yosuke Uchitomi

JCO JCO.2013.51.2756; published online on June 9, 2014;