Grant Application

Kathryn Berlacher, MD, of the Heart and Vascular Institute, in partnership with Robert Arnold, MD, Winifred Teuteberg, MD, andEva Reitschuler-Cross, MD, of the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Care Institute


Proposed Innovation

Cardiologists often face difficult conversations with patients and families about interventional treatments and long-term prognosis. Although communication is essential to cardiac care, physicians rarely receive the training needed to discuss these issues effectively with patients.

CardioTalk is designed to teach palliative care strategies to cardiologists so they can speak compassionately and effectively with patients about tough subjects.


Improvements in Action

CardioTalk features an intense 2.5-day workshop where physicians learn how to deliver bad news, help patients set care goals, discuss the dying process, conduct family conferences, and handle conflicts between family members. It includes brief lectures, skills practice through role-play, and reflective discussions. Faculty members also receive instruction in teaching communication skills to cardiology trainees at the bedside.


Results — Next Steps

The communication skills learned in CardioTalk prepare cardiologists to better treat patients throughout their disease process. Improved communication resulting from CardioTalk also is expected to result in a decrease in the length of stay for patients in the cardiac ICU.

To date, two workshops have been held with eight cardiology faculty and 11 fellows participating. All participants reported they felt better prepared to deliver bad news and the faculty also felt better prepared to teach. CardioTalk will continue as an annual retreat for first-year fellows. In addition, it will be expanded to include other cardiology faculty.