New Communications Skills Pathfinder Portal to fill training gap for clinicians treating seriously ill patients

Center to Advance Palliative Care, Vital Talk and Ariadne Labs Collaborate on New National Strategy to Rapidly Improve the Care of Serious Illness

BOSTON — Quality of communication between clinicians and patients is a major factor in the delivery of high-quality healthcare to Americans with serious illness. Communication between providers and patients has the largest impact on reducing readmissions. However, just 29% of physicians report having any formal training in communication about goals of care, and 46% report they are unsure about what to say in these conversations. As a result, many patients with serious illness receive inappropriate interventions, resulting in sub-optimal and costly health care.

To address this, the Communication Skills Pathfinder was developed through a collaboration of three national health care organizations: Ariadne Labs, the Center to Advance Palliative Care, and VitalTalk. Together they have launched the new portal to provide scaleable solutions to communication skills training for clinicians of all disciplines treating seriously ill patients. The goal is to enable every seriously ill American to have the highest quality conversation possible with the providers who have a pivotal role in their health care.

“We know that when clinicians learn how to have meaningful conversations with patients that are focused on values and goals, we can transform care for those facing serious illness,” said Erik Fromme, MD, director of the Ariadne Labs Serious Illness Care Program. “The Communication Skills Pathfinder brings together for the first time the tools and resources clinicians need to learn these important and valuable skills.”

The tools and training pathways provided by the Communications Skills Pathfinder portal can be utilized by individual clinicians, educators, and organizations. They can be adapted to any clinical setting, including inpatient settings, outpatient clinics, patient-centered medical homes, skilled nursing facilities, or home-based care. The portal will enable both clinicians and organizations to:

  • Improve the ability to share prognosis, elicit patient values and goals, and make recommendations for care
  • Create higher levels of support for both patients and their families
  • Improve patient, family, and clinician ability to develop highly personalized and medically appropriate care plans that effectively match all parties’ priorities

“The long-term relationship between doctor and patient is the basis for trust and communication about disease decisions, and patients expect their doctors to tell them the truth and to help them negotiate the best decisions for their future wellbeing. Doctors need the training and support to learn how to conduct these conversations,” said Diane E. Meier, MD, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care. “Communications Skills Pathfinder is the portal to evidence-based, highly scalable tools and essential communications skills training for all clinicians treating seriously ill patients.”

The Communications Skills Pathfinder portal is supported by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. It can be accessed at

The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) is a national, member-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the availability of quality palliative care services for people facing serious illness. It provides online training and Designation status in communication skills aimed at clinicians treating serious illness.

VitalTalk (VT) is a national, non-profit organization with a mission to train clinicians caring for patients with serious illness, and their families, in the communication skills critical to elicit patient values and discuss goals of care. VitalTalk has created a unique learning system for practicing clinicians based on expertise acquisition and the avoidance of common pitfalls that make clinicians ineffective or harmful when discussing goals of care.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact John Zoccola at or Lisa Morgan at 917-838-7936.