Improving patient emotional functioning and psychological morbidity: evaluation of a consultation skills training program for oncologists

Patient Educ Couns. 2009 Dec;77(3):456-62. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2009.09.018. Epub 2009 Oct 12.


Objective: To evaluate whether a consultation skills training (CST) program with oncologists and trainees would improve skills in detecting and responding to patient distress, thereby improving their patients' emotional functioning and reducing psychological distress.

Methods: Randomized-controlled trial with 29 medical and radiation oncologists from Australia randomized to CST group (n=15) or usual-care group (n=14). The CST consisted of a 1.5-day face-to-face workshop incorporating presentation of principles, a DVD modelling ideal behaviour and role-play practice, and four 1.5h monthly video-conferences. At the CST conclusion, patients of participating doctors were recruited (n=192 in CST group, n=183 in usual-care group), completing telephone surveys at baseline, 1 week and 3 months to assess quality of life, anxiety, depression and unmet psychosocial needs.

Results: Despite high patient functioning at baseline, anxiety significantly improved at 1-week follow-up in the CST group, compared to the control group. There were no statistically significant differences in emotional functioning, depression or unmet supportive care need between the groups.

Conclusion: Consistent trends for greater improvements were observed in intervention compared to control group patients, suggesting the CST program deserves wider evaluation.

Practice implications: Video-conferencing after a short training course may be an effective strategy for delivering CST.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety
  • Australia
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Depression
  • Educational Measurement
  • Educational Status
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology / education*
  • Middle Aged
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiation Oncology / education
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Videoconferencing
  • Young Adult