Communicating with Patients & Families about Palliative Care

Having a conversation about palliative care services can be a challenge depending on the severity of the patient's illness. Providers must understand and differentiate between types of services when recommending palliative care.

Some guidelines are offered in the Center to Advance Palliative Care video, “Palliative Care and the Human Connection: Ten Steps for What to Say and Do.”

Watch Palliative Care and the Human Connection video

Quick Guideline for Palliative Care Communications

The acronym COMFORT, developed through the Pain and Palliative Care Resource Center at City of Hope, is an easy way to remember seven key principles when having conversations with patients and their families:

  • Communication is patient-centered and family-focused.
  • Orientation and Opportunity takes into account health literacy and stresses cultural competency.
  • Mindfulness emphasizes empathy and actively listening to the patient and family.
  • Family takes into consideration family dynamics and their needs.
  • Opening up allows for free and open communication. 
  • Relating to the patient and families helps a clinician work alongside families.
  • Team values include clinical collaboration.

Various publications on COMFORT principles and palliative care communication skills can be found on the City of Hope website.