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Importance of timely conversations about serious illness

Earlier and better conversations between clinicians and patients with advanced cancer lead to better outcomes, a study shows

Earlier and better conversations between clinicians and seriously ill patients lead to better outcomes, a study shows

Improving, increasing, integrating and better documenting conversations about serious illness with regard to the patient’s preferences, values and goals is possible and desirable, according to an American study, which evaluated the effectiveness of a communication quality improvement intervention.

In this four-year randomised controlled trial, researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, US, examined the utility of a structured communication programme in cancer care. This programme used a documentary tool called the serious illness conversation guide and skills-based training and coaching, augmented by reminder emails and documentation specific to raising and recording such issues in the clinician-patient meeting.

Secondary outcomes

The study enrolled 91 clinicians, comprising physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants (48 intervention, 43 control), and 278 patients with advanced cancer


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