Objectives: To explore patients' and family members' views on communication during cancer care and to identify those aspects of clinician-patient communication which were most important to patients and family members.
Methods: We conducted a secondary data analysis of qualitative data from 137 patients with cancer and family members of patients with cancer. We used a modified version of the constant comparative method and coding paradigm of grounded theory.
Results: Patients want sensitive, caring clinicians who provide information that they need, when they need it, in a way that they can understand; who listen and respond to questions and concerns, and who attempt to understand the patient's experience. Effective information exchange and a positive interpersonal relationship with the clinician were of fundamental importance to patients and family members. These were interrelated; for instance, failure to provide information a patient needed could damage the relationship, whereas excellent listening could foster the relationship. Information exchange and relationship were also integral to decision-making, managing uncertainty, responding to emotions, and self-management. Clinicians who were responsive to patients' needs beyond the immediate medical encounter were valued.
Conclusions: The complexity of cancer care today suggests that efforts to improve communication must be multilevel, acknowledging and addressing patient, clinician, organizational and policy barriers, and facilitators. Measurement tools are needed to assess cancer patients' and family members' experiences with communication over the course of cancer care to provide meaningful, actionable feedback to those seeking to optimize their effectiveness in communicating with patients with cancer.
Keywords: cancer; interviews; oncology; patient-centered communication; qualitative.
Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.