Lung cancer care is complex and spans both hospital- and community-based healthcare settings.
The aim of this study was to explore lung cancer patients’ experiences during cancer treatment regarding 1) communication between healthcare providers involved with their care; and 2) the role of their GP during this period.
Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 44 Western Australian lung cancer patients. Thematic analysis using a phenomenological approach was undertaken to derive the key themes regarding the experiences of the participants.
Three main themes were identified: communication between hospital-based healthcare professionals; communication between hospital- and community-based healthcare professionals; and the role of the GP during lung cancer treatment. Poor communication between healthcare professionals working in the same department, in different departments and in different hospitals influenced the treatment choices and the quality of care received by the participants. Participants reported variable experiences regarding the communication practices between their hospital specialists and GPs, and recognised that the information from the hospital was often delayed or incomplete. Many participants perceived themselves as the main source of information about their lung cancer diagnosis and treatment progress for their GP. Lung cancer patients had different opinions about the role of their GP during cancer treatment. Some did not see a role for the GP at all, while others relied on their GP for support with treatment decisions, management of side effects of cancer therapy, explanation of diagnosis and treatment options, and coordination of care.
This study demonstrated that communication between different healthcare professionals involved in lung cancer care is insufficient. Our results indicate that timely and comprehensive communication is necessary to assist GPs to appropriately support patients during lung cancer treatment, and that GPs often act as interpreters that assist patients in understanding their diagnosis and treatment options.