German general practitioners' views on their involvement and role in cancer care: a qualitative study

Fam Pract. 2014 Apr;31(2):209-14. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmt088. Epub 2014 Jan 24.


Background: The multidisciplinary and sequential nature of cancer care makes continuity of care for patients difficult. Cancer patients have often known their general practitioners (GPs) for years and are often in constant contact with them. Objective(s). We examined German GPs' views on their involvement in the care of cancer patients.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 German GPs. Purposeful sampling was applied to secure maximum heterogeneity. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and then analyzed using qualitative content analysis according to Mayring.

Results: GPs perceive a clear involvement in the latter phase of cancer care but a mainly sporadic role (as and when required) in earlier phases. They think that greater care contributions from GPs are generally beneficial to cancer patients, as their ability to take the patient's history, surroundings and co-morbidities into account enables them to provide more patient-centred care. GPs want to stay involved and to know how their cancer patients are progressing, and they complain about slow or non-existent information sharing between providers, as well as insufficient care coordination. They pro-actively try to overcome these obstacles through direct contact with patients and physicians, and by building networks of trusted care providers.

Conclusions: Given their long-lasting and close relationships with cancer patients, GPs are in a position to accompany them throughout the whole process of cancer care. However, such general involvement is as yet uncommon. Shared care models may have the potential to take into account the complementary character of primary and specialist care.

Keywords: Continuity of patient care; doctor–patient relationship; interdisciplinary communication; neoplasms; primary care..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Female
  • General Practitioners*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research