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J Oncol Pract. 2016 Dec;12(12):e964-e973. Epub 2016 Oct 31.

Quality of Patient-Provider Communication Among Cancer Survivors: Findings From a Nationally Representative Sample.

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Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, CA; National Cancer Institute, Bethesda; and Information Management Services, Rockville, MD; Bentley University, Waltham, MA; Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and American Cancer Society, Atlanta, GA; and Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Washington, DC.



Although patient-provider communication is an essential component of health care delivery, little is known about the quality of these discussions among patients with cancer.


Data are from the 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Experiences with Cancer survey among 1,202 adult cancer survivors. We evaluated discussions with any provider after a cancer diagnosis about: (1) follow-up care; (2) late or long-term treatment effects; (3) lifestyle recommendations, such as diet, exercise, and quitting smoking; and (4) emotional or social needs. Using a response scale ranging from "did not discuss" to "discussed in detail," a summary score was constructed to define communication quality as high, medium, or low. Patient factors associated with the quality of provider discussions were examined using multivariable polytomous logistic regression analyses.


At the time of the survey, approximately one half of the patients (46%) were either within 1 year (24.1%) or between 1 and 5 years (22.0%) of treatment. More than one third of cancer survivors reported that they did not receive detailed communication about follow-up care, and more than one half reported that they did not receive detailed communication regarding late or long-term effects, lifestyle recommendations, or emotional and social needs. Only 24% reported high-quality communication for all four elements, indicating that the vast majority experienced suboptimal communication. In multivariable analysis, survivors reporting a high communication quality with providers included those who were within 1 year of treatment, between the ages of 18 and 64 years, non-Hispanic black or other ethnicity, and married.


Study findings demonstrate gaps in the communication quality experienced by cancer survivors in the United States and help identify survivors for targeted interventions.

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