Patient participation in medical consultations has been demonstrated to benefit their subsequent psychological well being. Question asking is one way in which patients can be active. We investigated 2 means of promoting cancer patient question asking. One was the provision of a question prompt sheet to patients prior to their initial consultation with their oncologist. The second was the active endorsement and systematic review of the question prompt sheet by their oncologist. 318 patients with heterogeneous cancers, seeing one of 5 medical and 4 radiation oncologists for the first time, were randomised to either receive or not receive a question prompt sheet. Doctors were randomised to either proactively address or passively respond to the question prompt sheet in the subsequent consultation. Anxiety was assessed prior to the consultation. Consultations were audiotaped and content analysed. Anxiety was assessed again immediately following the consultation. Within the next 10 days patients completed questionnaires assessing information needs, anxiety and satisfaction and were given a structured telephone interview assessing information recall. Patients provided with a question prompt sheet asked more questions about prognosis compared with controls and oncologists gave significantly more prognostic information to these patients. Provision of the question prompt sheet prolonged consultations and increased patient anxiety; however, when oncologists specifically addressed the prompt sheet, anxiety levels were significantly reduced, consultation duration was decreased and recall was significantly improved. A patient question prompt sheet, used proactively by the doctor, is a powerful addition to the oncology consultation.
Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign