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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • patient–provider relationship;
  • communication;
  • quality of life

Abstract

Objective: To test the effects of patient and patient–oncologist relationship factors on the time spent communicating about health-related quality of life (HRQOL) during outpatient clinic encounters between oncologists and their patients with advanced cancer.

Methods: Using mixed methods, we coded for duration of HRQOL talk in a subset of audio-recorded conversations from the Study of Communication in Oncologist–Patient Encounters (SCOPE) Trial. Multivariable linear regression modeling was used to investigate the relationship between duration of HRQOL talk and gender concordance, race concordance, patient education status, patient marital status, and length of the patient–oncologist relationship (i.e. number of previous visits).

Results: Sixty-six encounters were analyzed that involved 63 patients and 34 oncologists. Patients were more likely to be female (51%), white (86%), married (78%), and possess a college or more advanced degree (33%). Most oncologists were male (82%) and white (82%). Mean ages were 58.8 years for patients and 44.9 years for oncologists. Regression results showed that the number of a patient's previous visits with their oncologist was significantly associated with a longer duration of HRQOL talk during their audio-recorded clinic visit. The remaining independent variables, gender concordance, race concordance, patient education status, and patient marital status were not significant predictors of duration of HRQOL talk.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that length of the patient–oncologist relationship is related to duration of HRQOL talk. Improvements in HRQOL communication may best be achieved through efforts directed at those in earlier stages of the doctor–patient relationship. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.