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Study Uncovers Patient/Physician Communication Gaps

Study Uncovers Patient/Physician Communication Gaps

NEW YORK-A new study by Louis Harris and Associates points to
serious gaps between what doctors treating prostate cancer say
they tell their patients and what prostate cancer patients report
they have heard. A panel of experts at a press conference called
to present the findings agreed that these communication gaps must
be repaired if further progress is to be made in fighting what
they called this "male epidemic."

With new and more effective treatment options available for even
advanced disease, the panelists said, it is all the more important
that patients be well informed and able to actively participate
in decisions about their care.

The Harris survey was conducted on behalf of Us Too! International,
a prostate cancer support group, and funded by Schering Oncology/Biotech.
The survey questioned 1,000 prostate cancer patients, all members
of Us Too!, and 200 urologists who treat prostate cancer. The
focus was on attitudes, awareness, and relationships related to
treatment of the disease.

Louis Harris' executive vice president, Robert Leitman, acknowledged
that the patients surveyed were, by virtue of membership in a
support group, more active and informed than a more general patient
population. Nonetheless, he reported a worrying disparity in answers
given by physicians and patients in areas ranging from patient
priorities to information about the efficacy, costs, and side
effects of available treatment options.

Differing Perspectives

Among the survey findings:

  • Of the doctors polled, 96% believe that most patients feel
    sufficiently informed to make treatment decisions, whereas only
    82% of the responding patients said they felt sufficiently informed,
    and only 63% said they were very satisfied with the discussion
    they had about treatment options.
  • Of the surveyed physicians, 99% reported discussing treatment
    options, whereas 15% of patients said their doctors had not done
    so.
  • Perhaps most dramatically, 100% of the surveyed physicians
    said they discussed the side effects of various treatments and
    how treatments might affect the patient's quality of life, and
    asked patients their preference for treatment, but only 84% of
    patients reported being told about side effects, and 70% about
    quality of life issues; 80% said they were asked about their treatment
    preference.

Perceptions of patient priorities also varied widely between patients
and physicians. For patients, the most important consideration
was preserving quality of life, with survival a close second,
whereas the doctors believed that in the early stages of the disease,
patients' primary concerns are survival and cure, and in the most
advanced stages, they are more concerned with survival and quality
of life.

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