Improving communication between doctors and breast cancer patients

Ann Fam Med. Sep-Oct 2007;5(5):387-94. doi: 10.1370/afm.721.


Purpose: We wanted to assess the effectiveness of intensive education for physicians compared with a traditional session on communicating with breast cancer patients.

Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted in practices in London, Hamilton, and Toronto, Canada, with 17 family physicians, 16 surgeons, and 18 oncologists, and with 102 patients of the surgeons and oncologists. Doctors were randomized to 1 of 2 continuing education approaches: a traditional 2-hour version (control group), or a new 6-hour intensive version including exploring the patients' perspectives and reviewing videotapes and receiving feedback (intervention group). Communication behavior of the physicians was measured objectively both before and after the intervention. As well, 4 postintervention patient outcomes were measured, by design only for surgeons and oncologists: patient-centerdness of the visit, satisfaction, psychological distress, and feeling better.

Results: No significant differences were found on the communication score of the intervention vs the control physicians when controlling for preintervention communication scores. Intervention family physicians, however, had significantly higher communication subscores than control family physicians. Also, patients of the intervention surgeons and oncologists were significantly more satisfied (scores of 82.06 vs 77.78, P = .03) and felt better (88.2% vs 70.6%, P=.02) than patients of the control surgeons and oncologists when controlling for covariates and adjusting for clustering within doctor.

Conclusions: The continuing medical education intervention was effective in terms of some but not all physician and patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Communication*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / methods*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Family Practice / education
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology / education
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Education as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician-Patient Relations*