Decision Aids Not Used by Most Doctors With Cancer Patients

Two-thirds of physicians are aware of the tools, but only 24 percent report using them
By A. Agrawal, PhD
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the benefits of decision aids in helping cancer patients make informed treatment decisions that often improve outcomes, many physicians are unaware of them and most are not currently using them, according to a study published online March 30 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Chantalle Brace, of Toronto General Hospital, and colleagues surveyed 477 general surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists regarding their awareness and use of decision aids, which are used to help patients make choices about their treatment options and have been shown to significantly improve outcomes.

The researchers found that, although 69 percent of physicians were aware of decision aids and 46 percent were aware of decision aids relevant to their practice, only 24 percent were currently using them. The most common barriers to use of decision aids cited were lack of awareness, lack of resources, and lack of time. After adjusting for various factors, only specialty predicted use of decision aids, with medical oncologists two times more likely to use them than general surgeons with fewer than 50 percent of their patients having cancer.

"Approximately one-third of physicians treating cancer patients are not aware of what decision aids are, and only 24 percent are currently using decision aids in clinical practice," Brace and colleagues conclude. "These findings suggest that despite the proven effectiveness of patient decision aids for cancer treatment, widespread use has not yet been achieved."

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