From OncoLog, September 2012, Vol. 57, No. 9

Online Program Fosters Effective Physician–Patient Communication 

By Natalie Freed

A new series of continuing medical education (CME) courses is available to help health care providers develop the communication skills they need.

“Effective communication is no longer a luxury in health care,” said Walter Baile, M.D., a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Communication skills are a key factor in determining patient satisfaction, quality of care, and health outcomes.”

In 2000, Dr. Baile and Robert Buckman, M.D., Ph.D. (1948–2011), developed a CME course, A Practical Guide to Communication Skills in Cancer Care.

The success of the course led the Department of Faculty Development to recruit Dr. Baile as the program director for an innovative series of CME communication courses, the Program for Interpersonal Communication And Relationship Enhancement (I*CARE), which began in 2006 as a series of lectures and interactive workshops derived from techniques of psycho- and sociodrama.

An interactive Web site, www.mdanderson.org/icare, was launched in 2009. Now considered the cornerstone of the program, the site averages 7,000 visitors per month. I*CARE offers a library of information to support patients, caregivers, and children in addition to courses teaching practical communication skills for physicians. These online courses are convenient and accessible to a vast audience, requiring no payment, membership, login information, specific schedules, or long-term commitments. CME credit is available for physicians who desire it. “We educate a broad range of people, including physicians, nurses, and fellows at MD Anderson and other institutions worldwide,” said Cathy Kirkwood, M.P.H., the project director of I*CARE.

The online I*CARE content for physicians is separated into modules of fundamental communication skills and more specific communication skills such as assessing nonverbal communication, breaking bad news, discussing medical errors, effectively acknowledging emotions, determining the informational and emotional needs of a patient, and developing collaborative relationships with patients and coworkers.

“It also includes material on how to teach communication, interviews with patients and families about effective communication, and videos on the challenges of being an oncologist,” said Ms. Kirkwood. The videos are accessible through iTunes U and are easily adaptable for use in teaching environments.

For more information, visit www.mdanderson.org/icare or call or email Cathy Kirkwood, M.P.H., at 713-745-3138 or cdkirkwood@mdanderson.org.


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