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ISSN: 2329-6879

Occupational Medicine & Health Affairs
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Research Article

Navigating Risk Communication Amidst Clinical Uncertainty: Physician Perspectives of Patient Interactions

Corso Z1, Sisler J1 and Driedger SM2*

1University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine, Winnipeg, Canada

2University of Manitoba, Department of Community Health Sciences, Winnipeg, Canada

*Corresponding Author:
Michelle Driedger S
Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
S113-750 Bannatyne Ave, R3E 0W3 Winnipeg, Canada
Tel: (204) 789-3714
Fax: (204) 789-3905
E-mail: [email protected]

Received date: February 22, 2014; Accepted date: February 23, 2014; Published date: March 01, 2014

Citation: Corso Z, Sisler J, Driedger SM (2014) Navigating Risk Communication Amidst Clinical Uncertainty: Physician Perspectives of Patient Interactions. Occup Med Health Aff 2:151. doi: 10.4172/2329-6879.1000151

Copyright: © 2014 Corso Z, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.



Communicating risk to patients can be a rather complex process given how subjective and variable its application can be by individual physicians. This is further complicated when the nature of the evidence characterizing the situation is conflicting, unknown, or evolving. This project explored how physicians conceptualize risk communication in the field of cancer care and how they attempt to effectively convey risks to their patients under situations of uncertainty.

Materials and Methods:

Family physicians (n=6) and oncologists (n=8) were interviewed using a series of qualitative semi-structured interviews guided by a process of convergent interviewing to facilitate the exploration of key concepts. Data were analyzed using NVivo9TM. Conclusions were generated based on an examination of areas where participants converged and diverged, and exploring the implications of these within the small sample.


Ideal risk communication included involving the patient in the decision making process, educating the patient, ensuring patient understanding, having the patient accept any uncertainty present and thus accepting the possible associated risks, and allowing the patient time to process the information. There was discordance regarding whether physicians should participate in shared decision making with their patients, or inform patients and then allow them to come to their own decision. Most physicians also expressed apprehensions about the process, largely in terms of whether or not patients could understand and interpret the information being presented competently enough to be truly informed about the decisions being made.


Physicians utilized similar techniques when discussing clinical risks with their patients, yet there was a lack of standardized approaches and the process was highly individualized. In these high uncertainty situations, physicians expressed significant unease regarding the efficacy of these discussions.


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