Impact of Patients’ Companions on Clinical Encounters Between Black Patients and Their Non-Black Oncologists

Amy K. Otto, Maija Reblin, Felicity W.K. Harper, Lauren M. Hamel, Tanina F. Moore, Lee Ellington, Susan Eggly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


PURPOSE The presence of caregivers or companions during clinical encounters influences the dynamics and outcomes of the encounters. Most prior studies of companions in clinical encounters focus on non-Hispanic White patients. However, there is generally lower-quality patient-physician communication during encounters with Black patients; these communication differences may contribute to racial health disparities. The purpose of the present study was to examine effects of the presence and active participation of companions on encounters between Black patients with cancer and non-Black oncologists. METHODS This was a secondary analysis of data collected during a larger intervention study. Participants were Black patients with breast, colon, or lung cancer who had a treatment-discussion encounter with a participating non-Black medical oncologist. Video recordings of encounters were coded for patient, companion, and oncologist communication. After the encounter, patients reported perceptions of the recommended treatment; patients and oncologists reported perceptions of each other. RESULTS Data from 114 patients and 19 oncologists were included in analyses. Only 47% of patients brought a companion to the encounter. Oncologists spent more time with accompanied Black patients, used more patient-centered communication with them, and perceived them as having more social support compared with unaccompanied Black patients. Oncologists reported that accompanied patients asked more questions. When companions participated more actively in the encounter, oncologists used more patient-centered communication. DISCUSSION Bringing a companion to oncology appointments may be beneficial to Black patients because oncologists spend more time with patients, use more patient-centered communication, and perceive patients more positively, all of which may ultimately improve patient health and well-being outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E676-E685
JournalJCO Oncology Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by American Society of Clinical Oncology.


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