Study Analyzes Oncologists’ Attitudes Regarding Patient-Reported Outcomes


Key Points

  • Practicing oncologists had differing levels of understanding regarding the details of patient-reported outcomes. But when the concept was described, most oncologists recognized the value of patient-reported outcomes in improving the overall patient encounter.
  • The findings of general enthusiasm among oncologists suggest that the atmosphere is right to pursue further research and begin pilot programs in the oncology sector, so the community can have a data-driven voice in the ongoing healthcare discussions.

A recent study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice assessed the feasibility and value of incorporating patient reported outcomes into oncology practice. Although previous research has shown that using patient-reported outcomes in oncology can improve physician-patient communication and outcomes, no studies to date have sought to understand the attitudes of busy community oncologists regarding the collection of patient-reported outcomes. On a broader level, the concept of a health information technology–facilitated rapid learning system is gaining widespread national support, and the researchers point out that patient-reported outcomes are directly connected with that emerging paradigm shift.

Identifying Critical Features

Using a semistructured format, Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Michigan, and colleagues interviewed oncologists in practices from 15 different states. The 45-minute sessions were conducted among a diverse group of medical oncologists who were identified through their affiliation with ASCO’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI), or a minority-based Community Clinical Oncology Program (MB-CCOP). For the study, leaders of 17 MB-CCOP practices and 639 physicians on the QOPI listserve received email invitations to participate in a telephone interview in which they were asked about their prior knowledge and experience with the uniform collection of patient-reported outcomes. The oncologists were then asked about their attitudes toward patient-reported outcomes and how widespread initiatives to collect patient-reported outcomes would affect their practices. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed.

Patient-Reported Outcomes Felt to Improve Physician/Patient Interaction

Most of the surveyed practices were large-sized community clinics located in Northeast urban areas. The participants varied considerably in their ability to describe patient-reported outcomes, so the researchers defined patient-reported outcomes to ensure consistent interpretation. When the oncologists were asked to define the value patient-reported outcomes might add to their practice, many of the comments centered on improving the quality of interaction with their patients. The researchers singled out this comment as representative of the responses: “Something like this [patient-reported outcomes] would clearly improve ... the quality of care of our patients because I think a lot of times in our hectic and busy day, a lot of these things slip through the cracks.”

Common Concerns

Although a majority of the oncologists in the study found potential benefits, a number of the respondents voiced concerns about patient-reported outcomes, such as receiving an overload of information that might burden their busy workflow. Another concern was their limited ability to intervene in certain problems captured by the patient-reported outcomes. One respondent summed that concern thus: “There are some things that…we just don’t have a very good way of treating, like tiredness or fatigue.”

Another concern was that information gathered by patient-reported outcomes, such as measures of patients satisfaction with their providers, might make it to the public domain and potentially have a negative impact on physicians.

In sum, the main concerns expressed in the study were the upfront costs and feasibility of implementing the necessary technology, and the potential overload of information. However, the researchers found that, as a whole, the responding oncologists felt that their patients would welcome patient-reported outcome questionnaires as a way to share important information that might otherwise get lost in the busy clinical environment. The study also found that, concerns aside, patient-reported outcomes would be well received among community oncologists.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.