Training Clinicians with Communication Skills Needed to Match Medical Treatments to Patient Values

Anthony L. Back, Erik K. Fromme, Diane E. Meier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Most clinicians currently in practice did not receive the evidence-based communication skills training they need to provide high-quality communication for seriously ill older adults and their families. Clinician communication skills are a critical factor in achieving a patient and family understanding of their illness that enables them to share in decision making that will result in medical treatments and social supports that are aligned with their goals and values. Research demonstrates that existing clinician competence in communication skills is extremely variable, that most clinicians need specific communication training to have an adequate level of skill, and that evidence-based training is efficacious. A conservative estimate suggests that more than 219,000 physicians and advance practice providers (APPs) (50% of physicians in high-contact subspecialties and 25% of all APPs) could benefit from training. Combining evidence-based clinician training with health system workflow redesign would likely maximize the impact of this training. We conclude with recommendations designed to address gaps in communication skills through effective training and health system changes in the service of enabling all patients with serious illness and their families to receive care aligned with their personal priorities. J Am Geriatr Soc 67:S435–S441, 2019.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S435-S441
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue numberS2
StatePublished - May 2019


  • communication
  • palliative care
  • serious illness
  • training
  • workforce


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