Cancer patients value communication, relationships over technical aspects of care

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Cancer patients are more concerned with communication and relationships with physicians than the technical aspects of their care, according to a study published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

Data on what most concerns cancer patients is lacking. In response, researchers evaluated complaints related to cancer care made to the Patient/Family Relations Office at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Complaints were collected from thoughout 2013 and 2014 with the aim to provide a better understanding of patient experiences in care and where improvements could be made.

Overall, 78,668 outpatients filed 266 complaints. Nearly half (48 percent) of the complaints mentioned management issues, 10 percent involved finance and billing, 15 percent focues on service issues, 13 percent on delays and 6 percent on access and admission. Some 41 percent of complaints covered relationships included 15 percent on communication breakdown, patient-staff dialogue (5 percent), and humanness and caring (18 percent).

“Most of the concerns represented in the complaints related to humanistic rather than technical aspects of care,” concluded first author Jennifer W. Mack, MD, MPH, and colleagues. “A systematic review of complaints would offer the opportunity to improve patient-centeredness of care by identifying areas where care fails to meet patient and family needs.”