Purpose: To investigate the impact of physicist-patient consults on patient anxiety and patient satisfaction with a randomized prospective phase III clinical trial.
Methods: Sixty-six patients were randomly assigned to the Physics Direct Patient Care (PDPC) arm or the control arm of the trial. Patients assigned to the PDPC arm received 2 physicist-patient consults to educate them on the technical aspects of their radiation therapy, while patients assigned to the control arm received the standard of care (i.e., standard radiation therapy workflow without any additional physicist-patient consults). Validated questionnaires were administered to all patients at 4 timepoints (after enrollment, after the simulation appointment, after the first treatment appointment, and after the last treatment appointment) to assess anxiety, technical satisfaction, and overall satisfaction. An intention-to-treat approach was used when analyzing data. A sample size of 66 patients provided an 80% power to detect a 7 point difference in the primary endpoint of anxiety scores, using a two-tailed Student’s t-test with α=0.05.
Results: The decrease in anxiety for the PDPC arm, compared to the control arm, was statistically significant at the first treatment (p = 0.027) timepoint. The increase in technical satisfaction for the PDPC arm, compared to the control arm, was statistically significant at the simulation (p = 0.005), first treatment (p < 0.001), and last treatment (p = 0.002) timepoints. The increase in overall satisfaction for the PDPC arm, compared to the control arm, was statistically significant at the first treatment (p = 0.014) and last treatment (p = 0.001) timepoints.
Conclusion: A new patient-facing role for medical physicists, including physicist-patient consults, improved the patient experience by decreasing anxiety and increasing satisfaction. Future work is needed to modify current radiation oncology workflows and medical physics responsibilities to allow all patients to benefit from this advancement in patient care.