Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 41–60 | Cite as

Patient-reported outcome use in oncology: a systematic review of the impact on patient-clinician communication

  • L. Y. Yang
  • D. S. Manhas
  • A. F. Howard
  • R. A. OlsonEmail author
Review Article



Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are an increasingly popular tool to optimize care and bridge the gap between patient experience and clinician understanding. The aim of this review was to identify mechanisms through which PROs facilitate patient-clinician communication in the adult oncology population.


We conducted a systematic review of the published literature using the following data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Cab Direct, and CDSR. Studies included in this review reported on the outcomes of PRO use, used PROs as an intervention and not as a study outcome measurement tool, included cancer patients or survivors as study participants, and analyzed patient-clinician communication.


We identified 610 unique records, of which 43 publications met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Synthesis of the reviewed studies provided evidence of the usefulness of PROs in facilitating patient-clinician communication on a variety of topics. We identified mechanisms though which PROs influenced patient-clinician communication to include increasing symptom awareness, prompting discussion, streamlining consultations, and facilitating inter-professional communication. Barriers to PRO use in communication improvement include technical problems impeding its administration and completion, compliance issues due to lack of incentive or forgetfulness, and use of PROs that do not appropriately assess issues relevant to the patient. Facilitators include increased education on PRO use, using PRO tools that patients find more acceptable, and providing patient data summaries in an easily accessible format for clinicians.


Our review suggests that PROs facilitate patient-clinician communication through various mechanisms that could perhaps contribute to improvements in symptom management and survival. The impact of PROs on clinical outcomes, however, remains poorly studied.


Oncology Patient-reported outcomes Patient-reported outcome measures Barriers to use Physician-patient communication Systematic review 



We thank Katherine Miller (UBC), for her contributions to creating and editing the search strategy used in this review.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Y. Yang
    • 1
  • D. S. Manhas
    • 1
  • A. F. Howard
    • 2
  • R. A. Olson
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.School of NursingUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Radiation OncologyBC Cancer Agency-Centre for the NorthPrince GeorgeCanada

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