Grappling with cultural differences; Communication between oncologists and immigrant cancer patients with and without interpreters

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Journal Article
Patient Education and Counseling, 2011, 84 (3), pp. 398 - 405
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Objective: Immigrants report challenges communicating with their health team. This study compared oncology consultations of immigrants with and without interpreters vs Anglo-Australian patients. Methods: Patients with newly diagnosed incurable cancer who had immigrated from Arabic, Chinese or Greek speaking countries or were Anglo-Australian, and family members, were recruited from 10 medical oncologists in 9 hospitals. Two consultations from each patient were audio-taped, transcribed, translated into English and coded. Results: Seventy-eight patients (47 immigrant and 31 Anglo-Australian) and 115 family members (77 immigrant and 38 Anglo Australian) participated in 141 audio-taped consultations. Doctors spoke less to immigrants with interpreters than to Anglo-Australians (1443 vs. 2246 words, p= 0.0001), spent proportionally less time on cancer related issues (p= 0.005) and summarising and informing (p≤ 0.003) and more time on other medical issues (p= 0.0008) and directly advising (p= 0.0008). Immigrants with interpreters gave more high intensity cues (10.4 vs 7.4). Twenty percent of cues were not interpreted. Doctors tended to delay responses to or ignore more immigrant than Anglo-Australian cues (13% vs 5%, p= 0.06). Conclusions: Immigrant cancer patients with interpreters experience different interactions with their doctors than Anglo-Australians, which may compromise their well-being and decisions. Practice implications: Guidelines and proven training programmes are needed to improve communication with immigrant patients, particularly those with interpreters. © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
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