The efficacy of audiotapes in promoting psychological well-being in cancer patients: a randomised, controlled trial

Br J Cancer. 1995 Feb;71(2):388-92. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1995.79.


Open or uncontrolled studies have suggested that providing cancer patients with audiotapes of their clinical interviews can improve information recall and reduce psychological distress. We tested these hypotheses in a 'clinician-blind', prospective, randomised controlled trial. A total of 117 patients newly referred to a medical oncology clinic who were to be given 'bad news' had their consultations audiotaped. Blind to the clinician, patients were randomly allocated to receive a copy of the tape to play at home or not (control group). At 6 months follow-up, tape group patients reported positive attitudes to the audiotape and were shown to recall significantly more information about their illness than did controls. Overall improvement in psychological distress at 1 and 6 months follow-up, as measured with the 30-item General Health Questionnaire and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was no different in the two groups. However, a second-order interaction suggested that poor-prognosis patients were disadvantaged specifically by access to the audiotape, with less improvement in psychological distress at 6 months follow-up than non-tape controls. Patient access to audiotapes of clinical interviews promotes factual retention but does not reliably reduce psychological distress and may be actively unhelpful in some subgroups of patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Depression / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Office Visits*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tape Recording*
  • Truth Disclosure*