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What Patients Facing Cancer and Caregivers Want From Communication in Times of Crisis: A Qualitative Study in the Early Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Singh N, Giannitrapani KF, Gamboa RC, O'Hanlon CE, Fereydooni S, Holdsworth LM, Lindvall C, Walling AM, Lorenz KA. What Patients Facing Cancer and Caregivers Want From Communication in Times of Crisis: A Qualitative Study in the Early Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The American journal of hospice & palliative care. 2023 Jun 30; 10499091231187351.

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BACKGROUND: Interpersonal communication is a cornerstone of patient-centered care. We aimed to identify what patients with cancer and caregivers may want from communication during a public health crisis. METHODS: We interviewed 15 patients (8 Veteran, 7 non-Veteran) and caregivers from regionally, racially, and ethnically diverse backgrounds across the US about serious illness care and quality of care during the COVID-19 pandemic Using an iterative, inductive and deductive process, 2 coders analyzed content associated with the code "Communication," which appeared 71 times, and identified 5 themes. RESULTS: Participants identified as White (10), Latino/a (3), Asian (1), and Black (1). (1) Help patients and caregivers prepare for care during crisis by communicating medical information directly and proactively. (2) Explain how a crisis might influence medical recommendations and impact on recovery from illness. (3) Use key messengers to improve communication between primary teams, patients, and caregivers. (4) Include caregivers and families in communication when they cannot be physically present. (5) Foster bidirectional communication with patients and families to engage them in shared decision-making during a vulnerable time. CONCLUSION: Communication is critical during a public health crisis yet overwhelmed clinicians may not be able to communicate effectively. Communicating with caregivers and family, transparent and timely communication, ensuring diverse providers are on the same page, and effective listening are known gaps even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinicians may need quick interventions, like education about goals of care, to remind them about what seriously ill patients and their caregivers want from communication and offer patient-centered care during crises.

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