BACKGROUND: In-person meeting is considered the gold standard in current communication protocols regarding sensitive information, yet one size may not fit all, and patients increasingly demand or are offered disclosure of bad news by, e.g., telephone. It is unknown how patients' active preference for communication modality affect psychosocial consequences of receiving potentially bad news.
AIM: To explore psychosocial consequences in patients, who themselves chose to have results of lung cancer workup delivered either in-person or by telephone compared with patients randomly assigned to either delivery in a recently published randomised controlled trial (RCT).
METHODS: An observational study prospectively including patients referred for invasive workup for suspected lung cancer stratified in those declining (Patient's Own Choice, POC group) and those participating in the RCT. On the day of invasive workup and five weeks later, patients completed a validated, nine-dimension, condition-specific questionnaire, Consequences of Screening in Lung Cancer (COS-LC). Primary outcome: difference in change in COS-LC dimensions between POC and RCT groups.
RESULTS: In total, 151 patients were included in the POC group versus 255 in the RCT. Most (70%) in the POC group chose to have results by telephone. Baseline characteristics and diagnostic outcomes were comparable between POC and RCT groups, and in telephone and in-person subgroups too. We observed no statistically significant between-groups differences in any COS-LC score between POC and RCT groups, or between telephone and in-person subgroups in the POC group.
CONCLUSION: Continually informed patients' choice between in-person or telephone disclosure of results of lung cancer workup is not associated with differences in psychosocial outcomes. The present article supports further use of a simple model for how to prepare the patient for potential bad news.