Study Finds Oncologists Spend Less Time Talking About Care Goals With Minority Patients

A randomized, controlled trial presented at the Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium found that oncologists may spend less time—up to 5 minutes—discussing goals of cancer care with minority patients compared with non-minority patients. 

Researchers recruited 22 solid tumor oncologists from community, academic, municipal, and rural hospitals and their newly diagnosed advanced cancer patients with a prognosis of less than 2 years. Oncologists were randomized to either the intervention group, which included grand rounds, a 2-hour workshop with a simulated patient, and 4 coaching visits; or usual care, which also included 1 hour of grand rounds.  

Post-imaging visits (n=142) were audiotaped, and researchers evaluated the median encounter time. Patients also filled out post-visit surveys, which asked about goals of care discussions, which was defined as the physician talking about preferences for cancer treatment and clarifying things most important to them given their illness.  

Patients were non-Hispanic White (38%), non-Hispanic Black (32%), and Hispanic (19%). The median face-to-face time oncologists spent during a goals of care encounters was 12 minutes with minority patients compared with 17 minutes with non-minority patients (P=0.002). Median encounter times varied between the sites, ranging from 10 to 18 minutes (P=0.009). Visits taking place after disease progression had a duration of 18 minutes compared with 13 minutes when disease had not progressed (P=0.007). After controlling for clustering of the patients within the hospitals and progression of disease, time spent with minority patients remained less than with non-minority patients (15 minutes vs 18 minutes; P=0.02). 

“Evaluating factors that contribute to this disparity is critically important to ensure minority patients receive high-quality cancer care,” the researchers concluded. 

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Source: Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium