How oncologists' communication improves (analogue) patients' recall of information. A randomized video-vignettes study

N M Medendorp, LNC Visser, M A Hillen, J C J M de Haes, E M A Smets

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24 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Cancer patients need information provision to cope with their disease. However, only 20-60% of information provided during consultations is remembered. This study aimed to investigate whether oncologists' use of trust-conveying communication, characterized by communicating competence, honesty and caring, enhances patients' memory. Moreover, we aimed to investigate if this hypothetical relationship is mediated by a reduction in psychophysiological arousal during the consultation.

METHODS: An experimental design was used, allowing for conclusion about causality. Two versions of a scripted video-taped consultation were used in which the oncologist adopted either a standard or a trust-conveying communication style. 97 cancer-naive individuals acted as analogue patients and were randomly assigned to watch one of the consultations.

RESULTS: Free recall, assessed 24-28h after viewing, was higher (p=0.039) in the trust-conveying condition (65.3% versus 59.5%). Recognition did not differ (p=0.502). Psychophysiological assessment during watching showed a smaller heart rate response in the trust-conveying condition (p=0.037). No mediation effect nor an effect on electrodermal activity was found.

CONCLUSION: These results suggest that oncologists' use of trust-conveying communication could increase patients' free recall of information and diminish their cardiovascular response.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: The underlying mechanisms by which oncologists' communication influences information recall warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1338-1344
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number7
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall/physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms
  • Oncologists/psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Trust

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