Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why communication skills training?

    To improve quality and reduce unnecessary costs, hospitals and health systems need to improve clinician communication with seriously ill patients and their families by incentivizing acquisition of skills and building infrastructure that supports occurrence of appropriate conversations.

  • What is the return on investment?

    By building the capacity to improve the frequency and quality of clinician communication with seriously ill patients, organizations can significantly improve measures of patient experience (HCAHPS scores), reduce readmissions, and lower the total cost of care for patients in the last year of life.

  • What is the difference between the training approaches of VitalTalk, CAPC and Ariadne Labs?

    VitalTalk, Ariadne Labs and CAPC offer different models for communication skills training. Clinicians and organizations can choose the type and level of training that best fits their needs:
    - Vital Talk offers intensive clinician communication training and faculty development
    - CAPC provides an online CME and CEU curriculum that provides Designation status in communication skills for every discipline
    - Ariadne Labs offers training based on a structured tool, the Serious Illness Conversation Guide, and a systems-change program

    VitalTalk and Ariadne Labs work jointly on the Implementation Collaborative and the upcoming Serious Illness Conversation Guide Train-the-Trainer course.

  • Why the Communication Skills Pathfinder?

    Many Americans with serious illness receive medical interventions that are unnecessary, burdensome, costly, and mismatched with their goals and priorities. The goal of the Pathfinder is to help ensure that all frontline clinicians have the knowledge, skill, and support necessary to have high-quality conversations with the seriously ill patients and families they serve.

  • Can’t clinicians already do this?

    Fewer than one-third (29%) of physicians report having received any formal training in communication about goals of care. Nearly half (46%) report that they are unsure about what to say in these conversations.

  • Why isn’t it enough to have a specialist palliative care team in place for this type of communication?

    The palliative care workforce is in great demand caring for highly complex and suffering hospitalized patients. It does not have the capacity to assume responsibility for communication about priorities for care with all seriously ill Americans. In fact, at present there exists a shortfall of 18,000 palliative medicine specialists in the United States, a workforce deficit that will only worsen as more baby boomers reach old age. Hence the importance of supporting core skills development for all clinicians caring for people with serious illness.

  • Why does it matter if conversations are infrequent, late, limited, or inaccessible?

    High-quality communication is a major driver of quality care for patients with serious illness. If communication doesn’t happen at all, or happens very late in the course of a serious illness, the result is suffering, poor outcomes, and preventable costs for our sickest patients and their families.

  • Is this a portal to training for advance care planning conversations?

    No. This portal’s pathways create a simple, targeted clinical intervention focused on having powerful conversations in the context of living now with a serious illness, not just preparing for future care. The skills and methods, however, are essential and applicable to advance care planning conversations as well.

  • Which patients do we consider to be “seriously ill”?

    Seriously ill patients include people with medical conditions that carry a high risk of mortality, negatively impact their quality of life and daily function, and/or are burdensome in symptoms, treatments, or caregiver stress. Examples include patients with advanced forms of one or more of the following illnesses: frailty, multimorbidity, dementia, cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, end-stage renal disease, neurologic disease, and others who meet the above definition.

  • What is the difference between serious illness communication and advance care planning conversations?

    Communication with seriously ill patients and their families involves much more than completing an advance directive. It requires clinicians to help patients and families understand what to expect as the disease progresses; to engage them in discussing their priorities for life under those circumstances; and to develop a care plan that is matched to those patient and family priorities. It starts by asking patients what’s most important to them in the context of the reality of their illness—rather than starting with a menu of life-sustaining treatments or procedures that patients might face in the future. Knowing what matters most to patients enables clinicians to make recommendations about the range of treatment options best matched to these preferences. The ultimate outcome is better alignment of treatment options, patient goals, and the care received.

  • What is the Serious Illness Conversation Guide?

    The Guide is a simple clinical tool that adapts best practices in communication during serious illness for a broad population of clinicians. It is an easy-to-use checklist developed by Ariadne Labs.

  • Why a collaboration between Ariadne, CAPC, and VitalTalk?

    All three organizations have years of experience training clinicians in the communication skills necessary to serve patients and families facing serious illness. Ariadne Labs has developed a conversation checklist tool to support clinicians in the conduct of conversations and the building of infrastructure to promote their occurrence; VitalTalk has trained hundreds of faculty to be adept at teaching colleagues effective communication skills; and CAPC has disseminated palliative care skills, services, and clinician training across the country.

  • Where should the portal be used, and by whom?

    The portal can be adapted to any clinical setting, including inpatient settings, outpatient clinics, patient-centered medical homes, skilled nursing facilities, or home-based care. It is geared to all clinicians and disciplines providing care to patients with a serious illness.

  • Are there fees associated with using the Communication Skills Pathfinder?

    Many training resources are free and downloadable. Others require enrollment, CAPC membership, or a conversation with the lead organization. To find out about a specific training or tool, click on its link within the pathway, or email us using the Contact Form.