RTI International, UNC to develop a measure of patient-centered communication for cancer care

The three-year contract is funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

Researchers at RTI International and the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center will collaborate to develop valid and reliable measures of patient-centered communication in cancer care delivery settings.

“Patient-centered communication is a critical component of high quality cancer care, but some cancer patients report poor experiences communicating with their cancer care team,” said Lauren McCormack, PhD, director of RTI’s Center for Communication Science and the project’s principal investigator. “Developing better ways to monitor and evaluate the quality of patient-centered care and communication can help to improve cancer care.”

The three-year contract worth nearly $900,000 is funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Researchers will conduct a longitudinal survey of more than 1,000 colorectal cancer patients to assess their experiences with cancer care and with communication specifically.  

“Patient-centered communication helps cancer patients handle the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis, understand and remember important information, talk with different health care providers, share in making decisions about their treatment, and build trust with their care team,” said Katherine Treiman, PhD, senior research scientist at RTI and the project’s co-investigator.

The team will develop survey measures that can be used for research and evaluation purposes, such as to examine the effectiveness of health care initiatives aimed at improving the quality of care. RTI and UNC will work collaboratively with Fight Colorectal Cancer, a patient-advocacy organization, and other stakeholders.  The team will collaborate with each stakeholder to ensure that the study addresses issues important to individuals affected by cancer.

“The availability of a precise, valid, and comprehensive patient-reported measure will allow us to better understand the type and quality of communications that occur between patients and providers,” said Bryce Reeve, PhD, associate professor in UNC’s Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the project’s co-principal investigator. “We will be able to track how communication changes over time as the patient transitions from active care to post-care surveillance, and to identify when there may be opportunities to enhance outcomes related to longer survival and better quality of life.”

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and ultimately help patients and those who care for them make more fully informed decisions about their care,” said Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Executive Director Joe Selby, MD. “The project reflects PCORI’s commitment to support patient-centered comparative effectiveness research, a new approach to health research that emphasizes the inclusion of patients and caregivers at all stages of the study process. We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with RTI to share the results.”