Improved Physician Communication For Cancer Patients

New research led by Monash University highlights best practice for communication between physicians and cancer patients.

The findings could improve quality of care for cancer patients who face complex decisions about treatment and symptom management in distressing circumstances.

Monash University led the research, as part of a collaborative team with experts from Melbourne University, University of Western Australia, Adelaide and Peter MacCallum cancer institute, Flinders University, and Eastern Health.

Effective and sensitive communication between physicians and people living with cancer is essential to facilitate discussions, assist shared decision making and identify individual needs.

Physicians also benefit from positive communication, as breakdowns in communication increase stress, decrease job satisfaction, and contribute to burnout.

Researchers Dr Sharon Licqurish, Dr Olivia Cook and Professor Claire Johnson from the School of Nursing and Midwifery examined systematic reviews of communication tools across 84 primary studies.

The study examined patient communication tools including tape recordings of consultations, question prompt lists and patient reported outcome measures. It found question prompt lists and patient reported outcome tools were the most effective physician-patient tools.

“We reviewed an extensive amount of evidence to identify the superior methods that physicians can use to facilitate communication with people living with cancer,” Dr Licqurish said.

“We found that question prompt lists and patient reported outcome tools were the most effective in promoting discussions to assist physicians to identify individual needs and assist decision making and care planning.

“We would like to see physicians using patient reported outcome measures and question prompt lists in clinical practice to improve communication and therefore benefit people living with cancer.”

‘Tools to facilitate communication during physician-patient consultations in cancer care: an overview of systematic reviews’ was published in ‘CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians’ on Friday 27 July 2019. 

The study was supported by Western and Central Melbourne Integrated Cancer Services and Western Health.