A Direct Patient-Provider Relationship With the Medical Physicist Reduces Anxiety in Patients Receiving Radiation Therapy

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2023 Jan 1;115(1):233-243. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2022.10.011. Epub 2022 Oct 13.


Purpose: The complex technological processes involved in radiation therapy can be intimidating to patients, causing increased treatment-related anxiety and reduced satisfaction. An intervention was implemented to provide direct consultations between patients and medical physicists to reduce patient anxiety and improve patient satisfaction. A randomized clinical trial was conducted to test the intervention's effect on anxiety, distress, treatment adherence, technical understanding, and satisfaction in patients receiving radiation therapy.

Methods and materials: Eligible patients were recruited into "intervention" and "standard of care" arms within a phase 2 screening randomized trial. Intervention-arm patients met with a medical physicist who provided technical information and addressed patient questions or concerns at the time of treatment simulation and before the first treatment. In addition to baseline information collected before randomization, participants were surveyed (1) before simulation, (2) before the first treatment, and (3) before the completion of treatment to evaluate the study endpoints. Primary endpoints included patient anxiety and distress. Secondary endpoints included patient treatment adherence, overall satisfaction, and technical understanding of treatment. Patients in the intervention arm were surveyed before and after each physicist meeting.

Results: Participant anxiety was significantly reduced in the intervention arm (difference, -0.29; 95% confidence interval, -0.57 to -0.02; P = .038). No differences in distress or treatment adherence were observed between groups. Although measures of technical understanding and satisfaction were evaluated as exploratory objectives, participants in the intervention group were more likely to feel that technical aspects of treatment were adequately explained (difference, 0.78; 95% confidence interval, 0.03-1.54), and all measures of technical understanding and satisfaction were considerably higher in the intervention group at the time of the first visit.

Conclusions: The establishment of a direct patient-provider relationship with the medical physicist reduced anxiety in patients receiving radiation therapy. In addition, increases in patient understanding of the technical aspects of care and in satisfaction were observed at the initiation of treatment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety* / etiology
  • Anxiety* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires