December 10, 2018

The 10 tips for communicating a mesothelioma diagnosis, from RADIO Meso

RADIO Meso stands for Receiving A DIagnosis Of Mesothelioma. The research project looked at identifying ways in which the experience of receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma could be improved for families and carers. The research team involved identified that a diagnosis of mesothelioma is a complex communication that requires a high skillset and, if done badly, could cause distress to the patient and their family. They also recognised that there was a lack of evidence on how best to communicate a diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Recruitment for the project ran between March 2017 and April 2018 and involved semi-structured interviews, focus groups and a consultation on the draft recommendations.

The 10 tips for communicating a mesothelioma diagnosis

The results enabled the research team to develop 10 tips for communicating a diagnosis of mesothelioma. Dr Taylor told us they suggested that practitioners:

  1. provide consistency and continuity in terms of who the patient sees and what is said;
  2. involve the clinical nurse specialist throughout, starting as early as possible in the diagnostic pathway;
  3. ensure that staff involved in communicating a diagnosis of mesothelioma have specialist knowledge and training;
  4. be patient centred when communicating a diagnosis, using language that is easy to understand;
  5. prepare and plan as a team before communicating a diagnosis of mesothelioma;
  6. provide a quiet and private environment to facilitate communication;
  7. ensure that the patient feels they have been allocated sufficient time;
  8. be direct and honest whilst maintaining hope where possible;
  9. use available expertise and resources. No single clinician should carry the responsibility of communicating a diagnosis on their own;
  10. make the patient feel like the most important person in the room, and at the centre of the communication process.

How will the research, and resulting advice, help?

The results of the feedback were truly enlightening and really made delegates think about their practice and how things could be improved.

Clearly, some of the tips may be easier to follow than others, and some will depend on the resources available to the particular health trust e.g. providing a quiet and private environment. Dr Taylor therefore stressed that the tips are aspirational, instead encouraging practitioners to do what they could to ensure that as many of the tips as possible were followed.

I believe the results of the research are invaluable and should be widely shared amongst clinicians and also need not be limited to just mesothelioma patients. They could be beneficial in the communication of other diagnoses, by clinicians in all areas across the National Health Service.

Undoubtedly, receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma will always be very difficult for any patient and their family. However, the study has shown how communication from medical staff could potentially be improved in order to make the experience more comfortable for the patient, making the diagnosis that little bit easier to comprehend.

If the diagnosis stage of mesothelioma can be handled with minimal distress this may also help patients have a more positive outlook, whilst instilling a feeling of faith and trust in their treatment providers throughout their personal mesothelioma journey. This can create an overall more positive experience at what will be a very difficult time.

Further, the research is also very valuable to those in the legal profession like ourselves, who often have to have difficult conversations with clients suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Where possible, these tips can be adapted by lawyers in order to effectively and empathetically communicate with terminally ill clients in the course of their legal claim.

Dr Taylor’s presentation certainly gave all delegates something to think about and take away to their own practice, whether medical or otherwise.

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