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Doctor Communication Style Key During Bad-News Encounters

TUESDAY, April 11, 2017 -- Enhanced patient-centered communication (E-PCC) positively impacts patients' psychological state during bad-news encounters, according to a study published online April 5 in Cancer.

Jelena Zwingmann, from Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany, and colleagues conducted a prospective, experimental study to examine the impact of physician communication style during a bad-news encounter. The authors randomized 98 patients with cancer and 92 patients without cancer to view a video of a clinician delivering a first cancer diagnosis with an E-PCC style or a low patient-centered communication (L-PCC) style.

The researchers observed a substantial increase in state anxiety and negative affect for all participants viewing the disclosure of a cancer diagnosis. Physician communication style moderated this emotional response. Significantly less anxiety was reported by participants viewing an oncologist displaying an E-PCC style versus those watching an oncologist displaying an L-PCC style; they also reported significantly higher trust in the physician.

"Under a threatening, anxiety-provoking disclosure of bad news, a short sequence of empathic PCC influences subjects' psychological state, insofar that they report feeling less anxious and more trustful of the oncologist," the authors write. "Video exposure appears to be a valuable method for investigating the impact of a physician's communication style during critical encounters."

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Posted: April 2017

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