MD Anderson Cancer Center Offers Innovative Patient-Professional Communications Program

The Interpersonal Communication And Relationship Enhancement (I*CARE) programs are excellent educational tools developed to enhance the communication skills of oncology professionals. The program is part of MD Anderson’s Department of Faculty Development. The program developers strongly believe that “skillful communication is a competency that can be taught and learned.”

The I*CARE program mission: “Most cancer clinicians have not had the opportunity to develop their skills in managing difficult patient encounters such as those where there are strong emotions, stressed families or uncomfortable conversations when transitioning a patient to palliative care or discussing end of life. Oncology providers want to extend their role beyond treating disease to establishing a therapeutic and supportive alliance with the patient and family. Our goal is to assist you in sharpening the skills necessary to manage these challenging encounters.”

I*CARE PROGRAM INITIATIVES

I*CARE Website

The website, http://www.mdanderson.org/icare, contains the MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Video Library of Clinical Communication Skills and is an educational resource for communication skills development. The video library helps with understanding the basic principles of communication and advanced skills such as discussing end-of-life issues and error disclosure by providing specific protocols that can be used and illustrating them with video re-enactments.  Free Continuing Medical Education (CME Ethics credit is available) and Risk Management credits are available to physicians enrolled in The University of Texas Professional Liability Insurance Plan. People may download materials for teaching purposes.

Programs

There are many program options, including fellow & faculty forums, interactive workshops, train-the trainer sessions, conferences and the quarterly Achieving Communication Excellence (ACE) lecture series.  One program, “On Being An Oncologist,” features actors William Hurt and Megan Cole who assume the personas of various doctors. Using dialogue gathered by physician focus groups, they share their feelings about the stress of caring for patients with life-threatening illness; the time pressures; the challenge of breaking bad news; the need to keep hope alive; the balancing of sympathy and empathy and keeping personal boundaries, as well as dealing with both the patient’s and their own emotional reactions.  A workbook with reflective exercises can be downloaded for both teaching and learning purposes.  In the Spring of 2011, there will be a new program launched for patients and families to learn how to communicate their needs to their medical team, and specific information on the cultural aspects of communicating with patients. 
One-on-one Coaching

Trainers observe healthcare professionals with patients and feedback is provided.

Research Opportunities

There are many ongoing research projects such as assessing aspects of the patient / oncologist relationship through audio taping clinical encounters and the impact of empathic statements on a patient’s emotional state.
These outstanding initiatives are making a big impact in helping oncology professionals successfully connect with patients on an interpersonal level.

Walter F. Baile, M.D., is the I*CARE Program Director and Cathy Kirkwood,
M.P.H., is the I*CARE Project Director. For more information about I*CARE, visit: http://www.mdanderson.org/icare

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Edward Leigh, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication.  The Center focuses on increasing patient satisfaction and decreasing the risk of medical errors. We offer high-impact training, consulting and one-on-one coaching. Contact us today!
http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com or 1-800-677-3256

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