Background: Multidisciplinary cancer meetings (MDMs) are a fundamental component of multidisciplinary cancer care. Guidelines relating to their conduct are largely based on expert opinion rather than empirical evidence. We examined patients and health professionals’ (HPs) attitudes to the outcomes and conduct of MDMs.
Methods: Two study-specific questionnaires were developed based on qualitative research, published literature and guidelines, for health professionals who attend MDMs and patients with a current or previous diagnosis of cancer. The questionnaires were administered at 5 health services encompassing tertiary and regional centres in Victoria, Australia.
Results: 179 HPs (response rate 64%) and 152 patients (response rate 90%) completed the questionnaire. 92% of patients want their case discussed at an MDM. HPs believe the focus of MDMs is to consider different treatment modalities (99%) and ensure patients receive evidence-based care (83%) rather than address psychosocial issues (52%). Similarly, patients allocated 71% of MDM discussion time to discussing possible treatment options, 15% to relevant social issues and 14% to psychological issues. More than 70% of patients and HPs thought no formal patient consent was required prior to MDM discussion. 93% of HPs thought MDM discussions should result in a consensus on the proposed management plan. Patients would prefer to discuss the outcomes of the MDM personally with their treating doctor (81%) and 75% also desired written documentation.
Conclusions: Patients and HPs agree the focus of MDMs is predominately treatment planning rather than focusing on the psychosocial needs of patients. Both groups believe MDM discussion forms part of standard care and formal consent is not required. HPs aim to develop an individualized, evidence-based management plan, agreed to by consensus. Strategies to improve communication of this plan to patients should be developed. This is the first empirical evidence on MDMs’ conduct and should help inform the development of future guidelines.