Good provider-patient communication is important … but not everything


Another new report on the topic of provider-patient communication and the management of prostate cancer has demonstrated the importance of information content and interpersonal relationships between patient and provider to patient satisfaction with their care.

This study by Song et al. was based on data from a cohort of > 2,000 patients with newly diagnosed prostate cancer treated in North Carolina. The overall satisfaction of patients was assessed based on satisfaction with things like health care services overall, interpersonal treatment, contextual knowledge, and prostate cancer-specific communication.

Here are the core study data:

  • The study included a total of 2,045 newly diagnosed patients.
    • 1,011 were African Americans
    • 1, 034 were Caucasian Americans
  • Regardless of patient race, patient-provider communication was related positively to
    • Interpersonal treatment by the healthcare provider
    • The healthcare provider’s contextual knowledge of the patient
    • Prostate cancer-specific intercommunication between the provider and the patient.
  • More positive patient-provider communication was related to more satisfaction with health care services.
  • Racial differences were significant in the relationships between patient-provider communication and prostate cancer-specific communication.

The authors suggest that the key practical implication of this study is that health care providers “need to integrate the transfer of information with emotional support and interpersonal connection when they communicate with men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer.”

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink would note that this is hardly a revolutionary finding. On the other hand, it certainly doesn’t hurt for physicians and other healthcare providers to be reminded that their communication skills will very definitely have a serious impact on how patients actually respond to their expectations about the quality of their outcomes after treatment.

Conversely, patients need to appreciate that a surgeon with great communications skill is not necessarily a great surgeon when it comes to the conduct of the actual operation (and vice versa). There are certainly excellent reasons, at times, for working with one specialist (who has great communication skills) to determine what one’s best option might be for treatment and then going and getting treatment from someone who is recognized at being really skilled at actually executing such a treatment (even though his/her communication skills may be less than stellar).

One Response

  1. A few subtle points about academic publication. …

    This paper came out in a low ranking (i.e., impact factor <1.5) journal on "patient education and counselling" with the lead author based in a department of nursing. The authors suggest that health care providers “need to integrate the transfer of information with emotional support and interpersonal connection when they communicate with men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer.” And the Sitemaster correctly states that "it certainly doesn’t hurt for physicians and other healthcare providers to be reminded that their communication skills will very definitely have a serious impact on [patient expectation and outcomes]."

    All true. All good. But how is this going to happen when: (1) MDs don't typically read articles written by nurses; (2) most MDs I know have never seen or even heard of this journal.

    In trying to improve communications around healthcare delivery, patients may need to bring copies of this paper (or at least this summary) directly to their physicians if they want them to be "reminded that their communication skills will very definitely have a serious impact on [patients].”

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