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J Clin Oncol. 2002 Jun 1;20(11):2695-700.

Consultation planning to help breast cancer patients prepare for medical consultations: effect on communication and satisfaction for patients and physicians.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



To measure the prevalence of communication barriers between breast cancer patients and their physicians and to present the results of a study evaluating the impact of two visit preparation techniques on communication and satisfaction for breast cancer patients and their physicians.


We recruited 132 breast cancer patients from two outpatient cancer centers in a sequential, controlled trial. Ninety-four consented and completed the trial. Patients were assigned to one of two visit preparation interventions before their appointment with either a surgeon or a medical oncologist. In the control intervention, called Productive Listening, a researcher listened to and prompted patients to reflect on their experiences communicating with physicians. In the experimental intervention, called Consultation Planning, a researcher elicited questions and concerns, generated a printed agenda for the upcoming consultation, and engaged patients in techniques to improve communication with their physicians. Valid and reliable surveys measured communication barriers, satisfaction with the intervention, and patients' and physicians' satisfaction with the consultation.


Sixty-four percent of the patients reported three or more communication barriers. Patients reported a significant reduction in communication barriers after both the intervention and the control session. Patients reported significantly higher satisfaction after the Consultation Planning sessions. Physicians reported significantly higher satisfaction with those patients who had participated in a Consultation Planning session.


Visit preparation sessions help patients prepare for medical consultations and reduce barriers to communication. Consultation Planning sessions, in which a researcher solicited the patient's agenda, were more satisfying to patients and physicians than the Productive Listening sessions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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