Patient Care

Are Breast Cancer Patients Satisfied With Their Care?

Results from a survey among patients with breast cancer reveal that their dissatisfaction has nothing to do with treatment but with time with their radiation oncologist.


 

Japan has a universal health care system with low copays and short wait times for appointments, including those with specialists. Yet patient satisfaction scores are low compared with those of other countries. Researchers from Juntendo Urayasu Hospital, a university hospital in a Tokyo suburb, conducted a study of 214 patients with breast cancer to find out which aspects of radiation oncology care might affect patient satisfaction. The survey included questions about overall treatment, time from diagnosis to treatment start, wait times in the hospital, and length of consultations.

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In general, levels of satisfaction were high. However, wait time was significantly negatively associated with both overall satisfaction and satisfaction with the radiation oncologist. Wait time was just under an hour for an average 11-minute consultation. Although this was longer than the “notorious” Japanese situation of a “3 hours wait and 3 minutes consultation,” the researchers say, “We expect that an international audience will appreciate that even 11 minutes is an exceptionally short duration for a consultation visit with a specialist in radiation oncology.”

They note, though, a reasonable caveat. Anyone can walk into their hospital and, for an additional fee, see a specialist on the day they want, which can lead to extended wait times from sheer congestion. Their hospital’s chief breast cancer surgeon sees 60 to 70 patients a day; the radiation oncologist treats 500 to 600 patients a year without resident or trainee support. This situation is typical of Japanese university hospitals, the researchers add.

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Importantly, for Japanese patients, the researchers also included questions to measure patients’ opinions about sharing how they felt with their physicians. The level of sharing correlated with satisfaction, but the researchers point out that in Japan sharing feelings remains “challenging.” Their findings suggest, they say, that if this were improved, patients’ satisfaction might increase.

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