OBJECTIVE: Cancer patients need information provision to cope with their disease. However, only 20-60% of information provided during consultations is remembered. This study aimed to investigate whether oncologists' use of trust-conveying communication, characterized by communicating competence, honesty and caring, enhances patients' memory. Moreover, we aimed to investigate if this hypothetical relationship is mediated by a reduction in psychophysiological arousal during the consultation.
METHODS: An experimental design was used, allowing for conclusion about causality. Two versions of a scripted video-taped consultation were used in which the oncologist adopted either a standard or a trust-conveying communication style. 97 cancer-naive individuals acted as analogue patients and were randomly assigned to watch one of the consultations.
RESULTS: Free recall, assessed 24-28h after viewing, was higher (p=0.039) in the trust-conveying condition (65.3% versus 59.5%). Recognition did not differ (p=0.502). Psychophysiological assessment during watching showed a smaller heart rate response in the trust-conveying condition (p=0.037). No mediation effect nor an effect on electrodermal activity was found.
CONCLUSION: These results suggest that oncologists' use of trust-conveying communication could increase patients' free recall of information and diminish their cardiovascular response.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: The underlying mechanisms by which oncologists' communication influences information recall warrants further investigation.