Good communication is essential in health care, especially in sensitive areas such as the transition from curative to palliative cancer care. A palliative diagnosis evokes both feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, which in turn cause physiological arousal. Anxiety and physiological arousal might have a major impact on cognitive information processing abilities, based on the attention narrowing hypothesis. Recall of provided information indeed appears to be a problem in medical bad news consultations. We hypothesise that affective communication offers physicians the opportunity to decrease patients’ physiological arousal and improve recall in bad news consultations. So far, experimental studies of communication in a cancer consultation have not been the focus in much research for several reasons. First, it is methodologically difficult to create a state of the art randomized controlled trial in the clinical setting because it is unethical to expose clinical patients to possibly harmful communication. Second, communication is often used as a container concept with little focus on the specific elements it consists of. To overcome these and other problems, an experimental study has been created, which uses healthy subjects.
The aim of this study is to test whether physicians can lower patients’ physiological arousal and improve their’ recall of provided information in a bad news consultation via affective communication.
This study contains an experimental design using two scripted video‐vignettes of a bad news consultation, in which physicians’ communication style is manipulated (neutral vs. supportive communication). Participants act as analogue patients. During the video‐watching procedure skin conductance levels and heart rate will be measured to assess physiological arousal. Afterwards participants’ recall of provided information will be analysed.