Cancer patients prioritize physician relationships over quality and safety, study finds

Oncology patients and their families prioritize positive clinician relationships over quality and safety issues when assessing their own care, according to a study published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

For the study, researchers analyzed outpatient complaints made to the patient/family relations office at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston between January 2013 and December 2014. The cancer center treated 78,668 outpatients during the two year period, and 266 filed complaints with the patient/family relations office.

A majority of the complaints (48 percent) surrounded management issues, including finance and billing, service issues, delays and access and admission. Forty-one percent of complaints related to relationships with clinicians, including communication breakdowns, patient-staff dialogues and humanness and caring. The remaining 11 percent of the complaints involved quality and safety issues.

"Most of the concerns represented in the complaints related to humanistic rather than technical aspects of care," the researchers concluded. "A systematic review of complaints would offer the opportunity to improve patient-centeredness of care by identifying areas where care fails to meet patient and family needs."

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