Should culture affect practice? A comparison of prognostic discussions in consultations with immigrant versus native-born cancer patients

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Journal Article
Patient Education and Counseling, 2013, 92 (2), pp. 246 - 252
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Objective: Poor prognosis is difficult to impart, particularly across a cultural divide. This study compared prognostic communication with immigrants (with and without interpreters) versus native-born patients in audio-taped oncology consultations. Methods: Ten oncologists, 78 patients (31 Australian-born, 47 immigrants) and 115 family members participated. The first two consultations after diagnosis of incurable disease were audiotaped, transcribed and coded. 142 consultations were included in the analysis. Results: Fifty percent of doctor and 59% of patient prognostic speech units were not interpreted or interpreted non-equivalently when an interpreter was present. Immigrant status predicted few prognostic facts, and oncologist characteristics no prognostic facts, disclosed. Oncologists were significantly less likely to convey hope to immigrants (p = 0.0004), and more likely to use medical jargon (p = 0.009) than with Australian-born patients. Incurable disease status and a limited life span were commonly acknowledged, generally with no timeframe provided. Physical issues were discussed more commonly than emotional aspects. Conclusions: While culture did not appear to influence doctor speech, interpreters filtered or blocked much prognostic communication. Practice implications: Initiatives to empower all patients to attain needed information, optimise communication when an interpreter is present and train cancer health professionals in culturally appropriate care, are urgently required. © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
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