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M. D. Anderson Launches Site to Enhance Cancer Communications

Patient / Physician Interaction is Basis for Trust, Confidence and Openness

M. D. Anderson News Release 04/23/09

Long a leader in patient/physician communication training and research, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has launched an online education program that coaches health care professionals on skills they may never have been taught in medical school.

M. D. Anderson recently introduced the I*CARE, or Interpersonal Communication and Relationship Enhancement, program to help teach clinicians, especially oncologists, the communication and relationship skills necessary to managing challenging patient or family encounters. Focused chiefly on cancer care and related issues, the site is free and accessible to any physician, nurse, physician's assistant, health care provider, patient or caregiver, and is available at

Accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation, the site includes video lectures, patient scenarios, articles and resources to improve patient/physician communication and ultimately, enhance patient care and outcomes. The most commonly accessed topics include effective listening, breaking bad news, error disclosure, discussing recurrence of disease and end-of-life issues, sharing information about complementary therapies and caring for the patient caregiver.

According to Walter Baile, M.D., program director for I*CARE at M. D. Anderson, skilled communication is a clinical competency fundamental to providing comprehensive cancer care, and one that can be taught and learned. A practicing psychiatrist, Baile has spent the last decade of his career researching and teaching the dynamics of patient and physician communication, especially the skills necessary to providing a supportive relationship for the patient and family and how to best instruct health care providers who have never been exposed in depth to the importance of communication.

"Most clinicians are not adequately taught the appropriate techniques or skills required to establish good communication with patients even while going through post-graduate training or fellowship," said Baile. "For the little that is taught, it's often forgotten or out-prioritized by other aspects of their discipline. This puts the physician at a significant disadvantage when bad news must be delivered or during challenging encounters such as helping families make end-of-life decisions about their loved ones."

The web site, one component of a broader educational program at M. D. Anderson dedicated to improving patient/physician communications, offers free continuing education credit to physicians and other health care professionals who subscribe to the online educational modules. The I*CARE program also provides faculty forums on communications skills and interactive workshops and training sessions. I*CARE is home to international alliances that provide guidance on cultural nuances in patient/physician communications and research collaborations through M. D. Anderson's Department of Behavioral Science.

Baile has trained more than 500 M. D. Anderson faculty and staff members and has led workshops in Japan, Italy, Germany and other countries. He is an instructor in patient/physician communication workshops funded by the National Cancer Institute. Baile also has produced "On Being an Oncologist," an educational program featuring award-winning actors William Hurt and Megan Cole and "Important Conversations: Talking with Patients about Complementary Therapies." He has authored more than 150 scientific papers, book chapters and abstracts on patient/physician communications.

I*CARE is directed by Baile with a Survivorship Advisory Board and an advisory board of other leading experts from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Baylor College of Medicine, the Japanese National Cancer Institute and the University of Rome (Italy), among others. 04/23/09

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center