A mixed-methods examination of communication between oncologists and primary care providers among primary care physicians in underserved communities

Cancer. 2015 Mar 15;121(6):908-15. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29131. Epub 2014 Nov 6.


Background: Research has demonstrated that communication and care coordination improve cancer patient outcomes. To improve communication and care coordination, it is important to understand primary care providers' (PCPs') perceptions of communication with oncologists as well as PCPs' communication needs.

Methods: A mixed-methods approach was used in the present study. In the qualitative phase of the study, 18 PCPs practicing in underserved, minority communities were interviewed about their experiences communicating with oncologists. In the quantitative phase of the study, 128 PCPs completed an online survey about their preferences, experiences, and satisfaction with communication with oncologists.

Results: Results indicated a PCP-oncologist gap in communication occurred between diagnosis and treatment. PCPs wanted more communication with oncologists, updates on their patients' prognosis throughout treatment, and to be contacted via telephone or email and saw their role as crucial in providing supportive care for their patients.

Conclusions: Although PCPs recognize that they play a critical, proactive role in supporting patients throughout the continuum of their cancer care experience, existing norms regarding postreferral engagement and oncologist-PCP communication often hinder activation of this role among PCPs. Expected standards regarding the method, frequency, and quality of postreferral communication should be jointly articulated and made accountable between PCPs and oncologists to help improve cancer patients' quality of care, particularly in minority communities.

Keywords: PCP; cancer; communication; health disparities; oncologist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology*
  • Medically Underserved Area*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician's Role
  • Physicians, Primary Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires