ABSTRACT: Closing the Patient-Oncologist Communication Gap: A Review of Historic and Current Efforts
Effective communication is essential in developing any relationship-this is particularly true between oncologists and their patients. The patient-oncologist relationship is one of the most delicate in medicine, and given the strong emotions associated with cancer, successful communication plays a paramount role in the wellbeing of patients and oncologists. Significant advances to close the communication gap have occurred over the past several decades, largely by addressing deficiencies in the various stages of an oncologist’s lengthy training: undergraduate medical education, residency and fellowship, and continuing medical education. Stemming from several milestones achieved by highly motivated groups of individuals, including the creation of consensus statements and guidelines by communication education experts, progress has been made to improve patient-oncologist communication. This progress is marked by the development of evidence-based communication skills training programs, such as Oncotalk and Comskil, in addition to the creation of distant-learning modalities, such as the Studying Communication in Oncologist-Patient Encounters trial. This review article outlines the history of communication education during medical education and training, and brings to light more recent efforts to promote competent, communication-minded physicians necessary for effective cancer care.