Correspondence between primary and secondary care about patients with cancer: A qualitative mixed-methods analysis

A common barrier to high-quality cancer care is poor communication between primary and secondary care. This qualitative mixed-methods analysis from researchers in The Netherlands explored information sharing between primary and secondary care for patients with lung, breast and colorectal cancer. Using the data from 50 patient files, 419 documents, the authors identified six main topics present in almost all referral letters between primary and secordary care; as well as 9 common topics in specialist letters. Important findings included referral letters often lacked focus, whilst letters from specialists often did not include information relevant for primary care physicians, such as the intent of treatment i.e. curative or palliative. This study is believed to be the first to approach this content analysis without pre-specified quality criteria. Overall, the results suggest neither referral nor specialist letters are tailored to the needs of the recipient.

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