Background: The unmonitored use of complementary medicine in patients with cancer can be associated with an increased risk of safety-related issues, such as lower adherence to conventional cancer therapies. Training oncology physicians to advise their patients about the effectiveness and safety of these therapies could improve this situation.
Methods: The objective of this study was to develop and pretest a consultation framework that has high potential to be widely implemented. The framework comprises: 1) a systematically developed and tested, manualized, guided consultation; and 2) blended learning training (e-learning and communication skills training workshop) to upskill oncology physicians in advising their patients on complementary and integrative medicine (CIM). For this implementation study, mixed methods were used to develop the manual (literature review, consensus procedure, pilot testing) and the training (questionnaires and interviews with oncology physicians and patients with cancer and an examination of the skills in a setting with standardized patients).
Results: The training was tested with 47 oncology physicians from across Germany. The manual-guided consultation (context: general information on the setting and communication techniques; inform: consultation duration and content; capture: previous CIM use; prioritize: focus on consultation; advise: evidence-based CIM recommendations; discuss, advise, accept, or advise against other CIM; concretize advice: summary and implementation; and monitor: documentation) was considered suitable. The structure and time frame (maximum, 20 minutes) of the consultation as well as the training were feasible and well accepted.
Conclusions: The current study demonstrates that the KOKON-KTO framework (a German acronym for Competence Network for Complementary Medicine - Consultation Training for Oncology Physicians) is suitable for training oncology physicians. Its implementation can lead to better physician-patient communication about CIM in cancer.