Objective: Following publication of national guidelines on detection and management of psychosocial problems in oncology, this study explores frequency of discussion of emotional and social issues in outpatient oncology consultations.
Methods: Analysis of baseline data from 212 outpatients participating in a randomized controlled trial. Baseline data included content analysis of audio recordings of consultations, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G) questionnaire subscale scores, and patient and clinician self-rated preferences and perceptions of communication.
Results: Fifty-nine percent patients and 75% clinicians expressed preferences to discuss emotional issues during consultations. Analysis of audio recordings showed that they were discussed in 27% of the consultations, regardless of severity of emotional problems reported by patients (FACT-G Emotional well-being subscale). Fifty percent of clinicians reported discussing emotional issues ‘often’ or ‘almost always’, compared with 18% of patients. Forty-four percent patients and 39% clinicians reported that they would discuss social activities, but they were actually discussed in 46% of consultations. Patients predominantly initiated discussion of emotional and social issues (85 and 60% consultations, respectively).
Conclusions: Low prevalence of discussion of psychosocial issues cannot be accounted for by patient or clinician communication preferences. If clinicians rely on patients to initiate discussion of psychosocial issues, patients' problems may go unaddressed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.