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CA Cancer J Clin. 2019 Nov;69(6):497-520. doi: 10.3322/caac.21573. Epub 2019 Jul 24.

Tools to facilitate communication during physician-patient consultations in cancer care: An overview of systematic reviews.

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Monash Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
National Stroke Foundation, Melbourne, Australia and Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Medical School, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.
Department of Medical Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Flinders Center for Innovation in Cancer, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.
Supportive and Palliative Care, Eastern Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Center for Cancer Research and Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Tools have been developed to facilitate communication and support information exchange between people diagnosed with cancer and their physicians. Patient-reported outcome measures, question prompt lists, patient-held records, tape recordings of consultations, decision aids, and survivorship care plans have all been promoted as potential tools, and there is extensive literature exploring their impact on patient outcomes. Eleven systematic reviews of studies evaluating tools to facilitate patient-physician communication were reviewed and summarized in this overview of systematic reviews. Across the systematic reviews, 87 publications reported on 84 primary studies involving 15,381 participants. Routine use of patient-reported outcome measures and feedback of results to clinicians can improve pain management, physician-patient communication, and symptom detection and control; increase utilization of supportive care; and increase patient involvement in care. Question prompt lists can increase the number of questions asked by patients without increasing consultation length and may encourage them to reflect and plan questions before the consultation. There is limited benefit in audio recording consultations or using patient-held records during consultations. Physicians should be supported by adequately resourced health services to respond effectively to the range of clinical and broader patient needs identified through the routine use of tools to facilitate communication.


cancer; communication; malignancy; medicine; neoplasm; patient; patient-reported outcome measures; physician; referral and consultation; systematic review

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