Every year, 340,000 Americans are diagnosed with cancer, and fully 4 in 10 of these diagnoses will be colorectal cancer (CRC). CRC is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States; however, 60% of CRC deaths could be prevented if everyone 50 years old and older were screened.
By instituting patient-centered communication, we can increase screenings.
What is patient-centered communication, and how can we assess it?
Patient-centered communication considers the patient’s needs and values, involves the patient in care decisions, and builds stronger patient-provider relationships. This communication style has been linked to greater patient satisfaction, treatment adherence, and quality of life, and has the potential to help patients:
- Handle the emotional impact of a diagnosis
- Make sense of complex medical information
- Manage side effects and symptoms
- Make informed decisions about their care
- Deal with uncertainties
- Adopt health-promoting behaviors
RTI International, along with partners from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Fight Colorectal Cancer, recently developed a publicly available, easy-to-use survey instrument [PDF] for measuring patient-centered communication in cancer care (PCC-Ca). The PCC-Ca instrument is available as both a 36- and 6-item questionnaire and can be self-administered using a paper- or web-based survey. The instrument was validated with a CRC patient population, but was designed for use with other cancer types as well.
When is patient-centered communication important?
High quality patient-provider communication is critical at all stages along the cancer care continuum, from screening through treatment and end of life. At all phases, providers may have to assess and help patients manage symptoms, foster change in health behaviors, help patients understand and deal with uncertainty, and discuss plans for the future.
A study published in Medical Care, Influence of Patient-Provider Communication on Colorectal Cancer Screening, highlighted the importance of patient-provider communication at the screening phase. The study found that communication was a leading factor in choosing to be screened. Patients who felt they had sufficient time with their healthcare provider were more likely to be screened for CRC. The study also determined that those who received an adequate explanation of healthcare needs were more likely to agree to a fecal occult blood test, which screens for early colon cancer.
Check out the PCC-Ca User Guide to learn more and access the instrument.