Better doctor – patient communication means better outcomes in cancer care

Cancer survivors are distinct from many other patients, in terms of their provider communication-related needs and expectationsBeing diagnosed with cancer and hearing complex information about treatment, costs, and prognosis can cause anxiety. On top of that, there is the fear of possible recurrence. All these factors and more can make cancer survivors particularly sensitive in their perception of good care or communication.

New study from the American Cancer Society has found cancer patients who reported greater satisfaction in the way their provider communicated with them, wound up receiving more efficient care with fewer office visits and better health outcomes. The finding were published in the latest issue of JNCCN—Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Study suggests that when cancer care providers are more effective communicators, their patients are more likely to follow medical advice and medication protocols,” said lead author, Ashish Rai, PhD, Surveillance and Health Services Research, American Cancer Society.

Patients used a four-point scale ranging from “never” to “always” to track whether their providers (1) listened carefully, (2) explained things in a way that was easy to understand, (3) showed respect for what the respondent had to say, and (4) spent enough time with the respondent.

Suggesting that more complex circumstances negatively impacted patients’ perception of their communication. The more comorbidities a patient had, the lower their satisfaction rating, highlighting the importance of coordinating care across a team of providers.

The results of this study present an interesting challenge: those survivors most in need of good communication about complex medical issues may not be receiving the information they seek in a manner that they find helpful.

This could be due to many factors, including time constraints, competing priorities, and increasingly complex cancer therapies. This study highlights the need for additional research into how to tailor the health care experience both during and after cancer treatment, in order to communicate more effectively

Communication needs vary from patient to patient,” said Dr. Rai. “While time constraints do pose a challenge, the amount of time spent is only one of the attributes of effective communication. By tailoring their communication strategy to a patient’s specific needs, providers may be able to communicate more effectively in the same amount of time. He also pointed out the importance of delegating both clinical and communication duties to colleagues as needed as another time-saving measure. The study also cites earlier research demonstrating better outcomes for patients who had the option of communicating with their provider electronically.

Researchers concluded that effective provider communication can improve outcomes by streamlining care, alleviating anxiety, boosting mutual trust, and increasing treatment adherence

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