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Communicating Care

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By Will Fitzgerald, MD Anderson Staff Writer

ICARE screen shot"What we have here is a failure to communicate." A well-known phrase and one that two MD Anderson doctors are on a mission to ensure never occurs, especially when it regards medicine.


Starting just three years ago, the Interpersonal Communication and Relationship Enhancement program, or I*CARE, is an online education tool that seeks to improve interactions between cancer patients, their families and clinicians.

Developed by MD Anderson's Walter Baile, M.D., and Robert Buckman, M.D., Ph.D., the program offers physicians, nurses and other health care professionals the opportunity to gauge and improve their own communication skills through a series of engaging online content, including video modules, podcasts and expert interviews.

"I*CARE started as a program to promote effective communication skills in oncology," Baile says. "Although some people are born with good interpersonal skills, it's quite different when you need to know how to give bad news to patients or talk to families about end-of-life decisions. Our mission was to provide expert knowledge and a set of best practices."

The Resources
For those interested in obtaining free CME credits, I*CARE contains a growing list of video courses that cover a wide range, from essential communication skills, to more advanced scenarios, such as telling patients they have cancer. Little things, such as the importance of having Kleenex available so it will let the patient know that it's OK to cry, are reviewed.

"Seeing is believing," Baile says. "You can do things with video that you can't do on paper or even verbally."

In addition, taped lectures on topics such as using humor as a coping strategy are available for free download on iTunes, providing users with a portal learning environment.

Winning Awards
People are taking notice. I*CARE was recently awarded three Telly Awards, which honor high-quality commercials and video production, placing MD Anderson in a distinguished group that includes past winners like NBC Universal, ESPN and Harpo Studios. I*CARE won in the education category and training category, and received the highest Silver Award for a video module, "Crossroads," which depicts interactions between physicians and patients regarding emotions in response to hearing bad news.

Cathy Kirkwood, I*CARE project director, and Baile credit MD Anderson's experts, including UT Television, along with an institution-wide collaboration for making the program such a success.

"I'm so grateful that at MD Anderson we have the talent and resources to bear," Baile says. "I don't think there's any other medical institution in the world that could put together a site to bring content to people in such an exciting way."

To view videos and other education modules that provide free CME credit, visit the website at www.mdanderson.org/icare

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