Talk to Me: Doctor, Patient, and Caregiver Communication

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Dr. Max Gomez hosted a panel discussion about strategies that healthcare professionals may use to talk to patients, caregivers, and family members about cancer treatment. When handled appropriately, such conversations can have a positive impact on patient satisfaction and quality of life.

The experts agreed that healthcare professionals must work to gain the trust of patients and caregivers before discussing sensitive topics. Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Comskil training program involves role playing so that healthcare professionals can learn how to create opportunities for communication, even when patients and caregivers are reluctant to discuss a cancer diagnosis or different aspects of treatment. The program teaches physicians to use open-ended questions when talking to patients and caregivers to encourage them to say what’s on their minds.

The experts also discussed ways in which patients and caregivers can communicate effectively with their physicians, such as writing down questions before appointments and taking along a family member when having a scan to avoid missing important information.

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s caregiver-to-caregiver program offers support and advice to caregivers who are carrying the enormous physical and emotional burden of caring for a loved one with cancer.