SpeakSooner Collaboration with Adirondack Health at Saranac Lake Oncology Team

In 2021, the Center for Communication in Medicine (CCM) began a collaboration with the Oncology Department at Adirondack Health in Saranac Lake, NY to launch a pilot project to improve healthcare communication between patients and cancer clinicians.


In the pilot program, patients are introduced to SpeakSooner: A Patient’s Guide to Difficult Conversations (Guide) to help identify and communicate questions and concerns about health status, risks and benefits of treatment options and supportive care needs, which prepares them to make informed decisions about care. The SpeakSooner Model encourages (coach) patients to take the lead in opening what can be difficult conversations and helps reduce the burden on healthcare providers in trying to “read” a patient’s readiness for honest discussions about prognosis.


A system for documenting questions and concerns in the medical record has been developed, which allows the cancer care team and other specialists involved in a patient’s care to have access to pertinent information about healthcare issues. The SpeakSooner model has helped to increase satisfaction with care for patients, loved ones and clinicians.


CCM’s consultation team of Stanford medical oncologist Dr. Lidia Schapira, primary care physician (ret.) Dr. Michael Welther and CCM Executive Director Dr. Bernard Bandman meet monthly with the oncology team online to discuss ongoing practice concerns and offer suggestions for improving the program. On November 17, the CCM team had an on-site visit to review of the project with oncology team. The staff acknowledged that using the Guide exceeded expectations. The program is building healthcare partnerships between patients, loved ones and the cancer care team.


For information about the SpeakSooner Model and Guide contact ccm.office @speaksooner.org.


From left to right. Adirondack Health oncologist Dr. David Mastrianni, social worker Kris Hybicki, nurse Gina DuMond and nurse practitioner Sara Ames with Center for Communication in Medicine consultants Dr. Bernard Bandman and Dr. Michael Welther.