Voices of Patients and Oncologists Must be Heard, Study Says

Specifically training oncologists and their patients to have high-quality discussions improves communication, health but troubling gaps still exist between the two groups, according to a new study in JAMA Oncology.

The 265 patients who agreed to participate in the research 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. The 38 doctors in the study were also given state-of-the-art communications workshop training.  All physicians and patients were from the University of Rochester’s Wilmot Cancer Institute or the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Results showed that patients 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.

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