Studying communication in oncologist-patient encounters: The SCOPE Trial

Celine M. Koropchak, Kathryn I. Pollak, Robert M. Arnold, Stewart C. Alexander, Celette Sugg Skinner, Maren K. Olsen, Amy S. Jeffreys, Keri L. Rodriguez, Amy P. Abernethy, James A. Tulsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Study objective: Most oncologists have not received adequate training in physician-patient communication, and existing effective courses tend to be time and resource intensive. We are developing and testing a tailored CD-ROM educational intervention that includes feedback on oncologists' own audio-recorded conversations with their advanced cancer patients. In this report, we describe the study methods and identify challenges to implementation and how these were overcome. Study design: A three-phase, randomized, controlled trial. In Phase 1, we audio-recorded oncologist-patient clinic encounters. In Phase 2, oncologists were randomly assigned to a communication CD-ROM intervention or control. Phase 3 consisted of audio-recording all participating oncologists conversing with a new sample of patients, two to 12 months after the intervention, to assess its effectiveness. Setting: Oncology clinics at Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center (DVAMC) in Durham, NC, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in Pittsburgh, PA. Participants: Medical, radiation and gynecological oncologists and their patients with advanced cancer. Intervention: A tailored CD-ROM that contains an interactive educational interface with reference materials and video-clips of model conversations, along with the oncologists' own Phase I audio-recorded conversations. Conclusion: We present challenges and solutions to oncologist recruitment, identifying appropriate patients with advanced cancer, adapting to clinic flow, and developing a self-administered communications intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)813-819
Number of pages7
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2006


  • Oncologist
  • Patient-provider relationship
  • Physician-patient communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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