The ecology of patient and caregiver participation in consultations involving advanced cancer

Jennifer Freytag, Richard L. Street, Guibo Xing, Paul R. Duberstein, Kevin Fiscella, Daniel J. Tancredi, Joshua J. Fenton, Richard L. Kravitz, Ronald M. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify predictors of participation of patients with advanced cancer in clinical encounters with oncologists and to assess the impact of patient and caregiver participation on perceptions of physician support. Methods: This is a secondary data analysis from the Values and Options in Cancer Care study, a cluster randomized clinical trial of a patient-centered communication intervention. Patients and caregivers completed pre-visit and post-visit health and communication measures. Audio recorded patient-caregiver (when present)-physician encounters were coded for active patient/caregiver participation behaviors (eg, question asking, expressing concern) and for physicians' facilitative communication (eg, partnership-building, support). Mixed linear regression models were used to identify patient, physician, and situational factors predicting patient and patient plus caregiver communication behaviors and post-visit outcomes. Results: Physician partnership building predicted greater expressions of concern and more assertive responses from patients and patient-caregiver pairs. Patients' perceptions of greater connectedness with their physician predicted fewer patient expressions of concern. Patient perceptions of physician respect for their autonomy were lower among patients accompanied by caregivers. Caregiver perceptions of physician respect for patient autonomy decreased with increasing patient age and varied by site. Conclusions: In advanced cancer care, patient and caregiver communication is affected by ecological factors within their consultations. Physicians can support greater patient participation in clinical encounters through facilitative communication such as partnership-building and supportive talk. The presence of a caregiver complicates this environment, but partnership building techniques may help promote patient and caregiver participation during these visits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1642-1649
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • cancer
  • caregiver
  • communication
  • oncology
  • patient participation
  • professional-patient relations


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