Background: Patients value audiotapes of their oncology consultations and letters summarising the discussion, and report improved recall and satisfaction when they receive them. However, studies to date have provided these interventions only after the initial or 'bad news' consultation. This study aimed to evaluate the utility of audiotaping routine follow-up oncology consultations.
Patients and methods: This was a prospective study following a cohort of consecutive patients attending routine follow-up at oncology outpatient appointments with one oncologist. Patients were approached when they attended their appointment and offered the opportunity to be audiotaped. Acceptance rates and reasons for refusal were documented. Two weeks after the consultation, patients were telephoned regarding their response to the tape and were sent a letter summarising the consultation. Two weeks later they received a further telephone call regarding the letter and their perceptions of the comparative value of the two interventions.
Results: Seventy-five per cent of patients were female and for 40% English was not their first language. The patients had attended a median of 14 previous oncology appointments; 52 patients were offered audiotaping, 43 accepted and 30 decided to take home a copy of the audiotape. One patient felt recording had limited the discussion. Patients refused the tape most commonly because they felt no need for this aid, and accepted it most commonly to aid recall or share with family. Twenty-six patients listened to the tape, 14 did so more than once. Twenty had shared it with another person and over 75% thought it was useful. The majority (57%) preferred to receive both the tape and letter, with three preferring the tape alone and seven the letter. Married patients and those receiving bad news were more likely to want the tape.
Conclusions: Audiotaping follow-up consultations is an inexpensive procedure that is appreciated by the majority of patients. Randomised controlled trials of their impact are warranted.