McCluskey, Serena, Abhyankar, Purva, Greenhalgh, Joanne, Takeuchi, Elena and Velikova, Galina (2008) Doctor-patient communication and quality of life – the development of a training program for oncologists. In: National Cancer Research Institute Conference, Sunday 5 October-Wednesday 8 October 2008, Birmingham, UK. (Unpublished)


It is recognised that routine assessment of quality of life (QoL) can improve detection of patients’ problems but little evidence exists which suggests that it impacts on patient management and well-being. It is acknowledged that clinicians may not have the tacit knowledge to fully address QoL issues, and therefore we aim to develop a training programme to assist oncologists in the interpretation and response to patient-reported QoL data.


We outline the theoretical and empirical approaches informing the development of this training programme. In a previous study, oncologists were presented with patient-reported QoL data, resulting in an increase in the discussion of these issues in the consultation and a significant improvement in patient well-being. However, the underlying mechanisms linking the use of patient-reported data in clinical decision making to outcomes were unclear. A further literature review revealed a dearth of evidence linking communication skills training to improvements in patient QoL. Therefore, underlying mechanisms are further explored using qualitative and observational analyses of previously recorded oncology consultations where patient-reported QoL data were used.


Based on patient-centred and shared decision-making theories, along with the empirical evidence on doctor-patient communication, a framework for the training program is outlined and preliminary findings of the consultation analysis will be presented.


Patient-centred communication is widely promoted but with vague definition and little understanding of underlying mechanisms. This study attempts to redress this imbalance and provide clinically-relevant evidence which will inform a future training program.