Oncology patients prefer interactions with physicians without computers

Advanced cancer patients prefer face-to-face interactions, during which the physician uses a notepad instead of a computer, according to study findings set to be presented during the 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium in San Diego on Oct. 27-28.

To assess perceptions of care interactions among advanced cancer patients, researchers created four videos with scripted actors portraying different patient-physician interaction scenarios. The scenarios consisted of a face-to-face physician consultation with just a notepad and a consultation using a computer. Two separate actors played the physician in the videos and conducted both scenarios.

Researchers then randomly assigned 120 cancer patients to watch one of the four videos. The patients then filled out a questionnaire rating the physician on communication skills, compassion level and professionalism. Participants then watched another video with a different scenario and different actors than the first video and again filled out the questionnaire. Seventy percent of respondents said they preferred the face-to-face interaction video. Additionally, actors in the face-to-face video who just used a notepad scored higher on compassion, communication skills and professionalism than actors who played physicians using a computer.

"To our knowledge, this is the only study that compares exam room interactions between people with advanced cancer and their physicians, with or without a computer present," said lead study author Ali Haider, MD, an assistant professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "We know that having a good rapport with patients can be extremely beneficial for their health. Patients with advanced disease need the cues that come with direct interaction to help them along with their care."

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