J Cancer Educ. 2023 Sep 7. doi: 10.1007/s13187-023-02367-9. Online ahead of print.
Geriatric cancer patients and their caregivers have unique needs that make it difficult for their healthcare providers (HCPs) to effectively communicate with them. As ineffective communication can lead to negative health outcomes, it is important that oncology HCPs receive specialized training on communication with older adult patients and their caregivers. We conducted a small pilot study examining audio recordings of clinical encounters between HCPs and older adult cancer patients/caregivers and questionnaires completed by the patients and their caregivers before and after the HCPs participated in a geriatric communication skills training program. Eleven HCPs completed the 6-h Geriatric Comskil Training. Two clinic consultations with unique geriatric patients (n = 44) and their caregivers (n = 29) were recorded before and after training and coded for HCPs’ use of communication skills. Patients and caregivers also completed surveys measuring their satisfaction with HCP communication and perceived empathy. Analysis of the audio recordings revealed that HCPs did not increase their use of communication skills after training. Although our sample was too small to detect statistical significance, measures of effect size showed trending improvements in patients’ and caregivers’ perceptions of HCPs’ empathy and satisfaction with their communication after training. Our findings build on previous studies evaluating the feasibility and effectiveness of the Geriatric Comskil Training in real world setting and indicate that the training may have improved HCPs’ communication with older adult patients and their caregivers even if their use of their observable communication skills did not change.