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Characterizing Perceptions Around the Patient-Oncologist Relationship: a Qualitative Focus Group Analysis

Journal of Cancer Education
Elizabeth Palmer Kelly, Alexa Meara, Madison Hyer, Nicolette Payne, Timothy M. Pawlik
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s13187-019-1481-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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The purpose of the current study was to characterize the experiences of cancer patients and their caregiver/family members around their relationship with their oncologist, health care team, and the hospital environment. Participants were recruited from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Participant sociodemographic factors were assessed. Focus groups were moderated and recorded by two members of the research team using a semi-structured interview format. The audio recordings were transcribed and uploaded to NViVO 11 for analyses. Four focus groups were conducted with 25 participants. The mean age of participants was 58.4 years (SD = 15.1, range 26.0–76.0). Participants who were identified as patients (84%) reported different malignancy types including breast (56%), gynecologic (16%), skin (6%) oral (6%), and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (6%). Three major themes that emerged around the patient-oncologist relationship, include (1) choosing a physician and health care location, (2) relationship with the physician, health care team, and hospital environment; and (3) patient engagement and decision-making. Subthemes highlighted the importance of the flexible communication behaviors and trustworthiness of the oncologist, and the impact of other health care team members. Patients also reported the desire to be engaged in making treatment-related decisions and to include the caregiver/spouse in all stages of cancer care. Understanding the experience of cancer patients in a relationship with their oncologist in the context of the health care team and health care environment will be an important area of future research to provide optimal, tailored patient-centered cancer care.

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