Development of an Intervention to Improve Physician-Patient Communication in Patients with Advanced Cancer


Koen Pardon, PhD
Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium


Between 2007 and 2010, a large, longitudinal, multi-center study was conducted on (a) the preferences of advanced lung cancer patients for information; (b) their participation in medical decision-making; and (c) the degree to which these preferences were met from the patients’ point of view. The results showed that patients’ information and participation preferences were often not met. More specifically, a large number of patients who wanted information about their prognosis, their palliative care, and their involvement in end-of-life decisions were not being informed. Patients who wanted to make shared medical decisions with their physician often did not achieve this and were far less involved than they wanted to be.

This led to a new study through which these communication problems would be addressed with oncologists and to gather their suggestions for improvement. A secondary objective would be to develop a specific intervention that would improve physician-patient communication at the end of life and, more specifically, information-giving and patient participation in medical decision-making that would meet patients’ preferences.

The study will employ the focus group methodology. Three sessions with physicians treating seriously ill cancer patients will be held. This study will prove successful if useful recommendations and a useful intervention model are derived from the focus groups that enable a reduction of the existing communication problems and an improvement of the patients’ sense of well-being. To test this, we will present the recommendations and the intervention to the physicians who participated in the focus groups for their feedback.