Communication training interventions improve patient-centered communication for those with advanced cancer, according to an article published in JAMA Oncology.1

Previous studies show that poor patient-oncologist communication leads to poorer quality of life, understanding about prognosis and possible treatments, and unwanted, aggressive treatments. Researchers enrolled 38 oncologists and 265 patients to this randomized study to evaluate the effects of a training intervention on patient-oncologist communication.

Nineteen oncologists and 130 patients were randomized to the communication training intervention group; this training included standardized patient-instructors for the oncologists, and individual coaching sessions for patients.

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While the intervention was effective for improving communication among physicians and their patients, there was no evidence that expectations of curability or quality of life were improved. Health care treatments did not vary between the groups.

The authors conclude that training interventions improve patient-centered communication and patient/caregiver understanding of information provided by oncologists. Health care system changes are recommended to improve communication among patients and physicians; coached training may be an effective way to provide such improvements.

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Information for the study was obtained via audio recordings of patient-oncologist interactions.


  1. Epstein RM, Duberstein PR, Fenton JJ, et al. Effect of a patient-centered communication intervention on oncologist-patient communication, quality of life, and health care utilization in advanced cancer: the VOICE randomized clinical trial. JAMA Oncol. 2016 Sep 9. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.4373 [Epub ahead of print]