AIMS: To explore general practitioners’ (GPs’) experiences and perceptions about communication when caring for people diagnosed with cancer.
METHODS: A self-report survey, which included an open response section, was mailed to a random sample of 1969 eligible Australian GPs. We will present results of a qualitative (thematic) analysis of open comments about communication- a key theme which emerged in the data. Comments pertaining to communication were coded into four non-mutually exclusive categories of general communication, positive experiences, negative experiences, and feeling undervalued by specialists.
RESULTS: Half of the 648 eligible GPs who participated in the survey included open response comments, of which 21% (68) pertained to communication. GPs were particularly concerned about inter-professional communication. They noted the importance of receiving detailed and timely communication from specialists and hospitals, especially in relation to patients’ treatment regimes and follow-up care. GPs valued a collaborative approach and good inter-professional relationships.
GPs who described positive experiences with communication were significantly more likely to have a higher overall interest in being involved in cancer care (p<0.001), as measured by other items in the questionnaire. Although female GPs were more likely to comment on communication generally (p<0.001), male GPs were more likely than female GPs to describe negative communication experiences (p=0.050). Male GPs were more likely to feel undervalued or unappreciated(p=0.004), as were GPs who had undertaken previous cancer-specific training (p=0.037).
CONCLUSIONS: While many GPs are currently involved in some aspects of cancer management, detailed and timely communication between specialists and GPs is imperative to support shared care and ensure optimal patient outcomes. This research highlights the need for established channels of communication between specialist and primary care medicine to support greater involvement by GPs in cancer care.