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.