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Communication with the patient and family 

Communication with the patient and family
Chapter:
Communication with the patient and family
Author(s):

Thomas W. LeBlanc

and James A. Tulsky

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199656097.003.0061
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date: 07 May 2021

High-quality palliative medicine depends upon communication that is patient-centred, clear, and attends to the central role of emotion in the medical encounter. Good communication leads to a number of improved outcomes including greater adherence to therapy, higher patient satisfaction, decreased anxiety and depression, and care that is more consistent with patients’ goals. Unfortunately, in practice, communication frequently does not meet these standards and opportunities are lost to meet patients’ most basic needs. That said, good communication can be deconstructed and conceptualized as a series of discrete behaviours and skills including assessing patient understanding before entering into difficult conversations, asking permission to discuss tough topics, delivering information in small manageable chunks while checking for understanding, responding to patients’ emotions, eliciting patients’ values, and aligning treatment preferences to their goals. Specific techniques and cognitive roadmaps exist to help navigate these conversations and ought to be in the toolbox of every palliative care clinician.

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