Who Is Responsible? The Role of Family Physicians in the Provision of Supportive Cancer Care
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PURPOSE: Patients living with cancer identify family physicians (FPs; ie, primary care physicians) as a preferred resource for supportive cancer care (SCC), either through direct provision or referral. However, little research exists on the specific role FPs play in addressing these needs. METHODS: A mailed survey was sent to all FPs in a health care region in Ontario, Canada, to determine their current and preferred roles in the specific provision of SCC to patients with cancer who have been newly diagnosed or are at the end of life. RESULTS: Completed surveys were received from 84 (64%) of 183 eligible FPs. Most practitioners reported providing for their patients' various SCC needs. However, clear gaps were demonstrated in psychosocial and nutritional counseling and in providing information about SCC services. FPs were satisfied with their current role reported in SCC coordination, although the type of role varied; FPs who were asked about their end-of-life patients tended to see themselves as part of coordinating teams, whereas FPs asked about their recently diagnosed patients were more likely to defer this responsibly to a third party. CONCLUSION: This study identified gaps in the provision of psychosocial and informational care to patients with cancer that may result in unmet needs. In general, FPs do not see themselves as primarily responsible for coordinating patients' SCC and do not wish to assume this role. Accordingly, models that involve FPs as team members in SCC coordination are more feasible for reducing patient need.
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