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Across the United States, millions of individuals face serious, life-limiting illness like cancer, heart disease and stroke, respiratory disease and diabetes. The final year of life with serious illness can be filled with emotional distress and uncertainty about treatment options.

When people with serious illness have conversations with their doctors and nurses about their personal values, goals, and what might be ahead with their illness, they are more likely to receive the care they want, feel less distress and report better quality of life. However, only a third of patients in their last year of life report having these conversations and, often, they happen too late in the course of illness to fulfill their most important wishes. Experts agree that all patients with serious illness should have these conversations; we need a new approach to assure that all patients are able to reap these benefits.

A new study shows that an innovative communication program developed by Ariadne Labs and tested at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute resulted in more, earlier and better conversations between patients and their oncology clinicians, and led to significant reductions in emotional suffering for patients with advanced cancer. On average, patients and clinicians had a serious illness conversation 2.4

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