Voices of Patients and Oncologists Must Be Heard, Study Says
Specifically training oncologists and their patients to have high-quality discussions improves communication, but troubling gaps still exist between the two groups, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology.
The 265 patients who agreed to participate in the research project had been diagnosed with advanced cancer (stages 3 or 4). Researchers coached them about what to ask their doctors and how to voice their concerns. Doctors were also given state-of-the-art communications workshop training.
Results showed that those who received training were much more likely to ask questions, ask for clarification and express their views. This is important because 90 percent of patients say they want to be actively involved in their care, and most busy physicians realize they need help in this area and want the support, said the paper's corresponding author, Ronald Epstein, M.D., a leading authority on this topic and a University of Rochester professor of Family Medicine, Psychiatry, and Oncology, and director of the Center for Communication and Disparities Research at UR.
Doctors and patients also had more clinically meaningful discussions around topics such as emotions and treatment choices, results showed. In fact, the trained group was nearly three times more likely than the untrained group to talk about difficult topics such as prognosis.