A new study titled, Patient Respect and Satisfaction in the Oncology Setting, aimed to assess how an oncologist’s inner personal opinion toward their patient influences or betrays the oncologist’s professional demeanor. 1 The 5-item scale used was modified from a 6-item Respect Toward Partner Scale used in 2006 to study romantic relationships.2 The results indicate that patients with cancer adhere better to treatment and experience higher levels of satisfaction if they sense mutual respect exists between themselves and their oncologist.

The questions from the scale were modified to reflect the oncologist/patient relationship
(Box 1). For example, the item from the 2006 study “I am interested in my partner as a person” was changed to “I am interested in my oncologist as a person”. Likewise, the item “I approve of the person my partner is” was updated to “I approve of the person my oncologist is”.

Box 1: The 5-Item Respect Toward Oncologist Scale1

Continue Reading

  1. I respect my oncologist.
  2. I am interested in my oncologist as a person.
  3. I honor my oncologist.
  4. I approve of the person my oncologist is.
  5. I communicate well with my oncologist.

The same test was applied in regard to oncology health care teams, which were defined as “front desk personnel, nurses, physicians’ assistants, radiation therapists, pharmacists, counselors, social workers, and any other support personnel”. 

When measures of respect and satisfaction for oncologists and their health care team were correlated, researchers found that real or perceived inner emotions such as respect are key to the validation of outwardly expressed concern in an oncologist/patient relationship. For example, respect toward—and perceived respect from—the oncologist from the patient was correlated highly at 0.90, a strong indicator that “patients tend to believe that their attitudes toward their oncologist and other health care providers are reciprocated”.

Genuine concern on the part of oncologists and their teams toward patients with cancer improves adherence to treatment and patient satisfaction, said Everardo Cobos, MD, professor of internal medicine and medical director at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, TX, and a coauthor of the study.

RELATED: Practice Management Resource Center

In an interview with ChemotherapyAdvisor.com, Dr. Cobos said that the relationship between an oncologist and patient is drastically different from other physicians because of the critical nature of the illness. Patients with cancer often express unbridled emotions like anger and resentment toward their oncologist, their treatment program, and the health care team caring for them. “The oncologist, on the other hand, has to demonstrate respect for the patient, and it starts with simple things such as active listening—allowing the patient to tell their story. Seeing into the soul and not just looking,” said Dr. Cobos.