Communication interventions in adult and pediatric oncology: A scoping review and analysis of behavioral targets

Bryan A. Sisk, Ginny L. Schulz, Jennifer W. Mack, Lauren Yaeger, James DuBois

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background Improving communication requires that clinicians and patients change their behaviors. Interventions might be more successful if they incorporate principles from behavioral change theories. We aimed to determine which behavioral domains are targeted by communication interventions in oncology. Methods Systematic search of literature indexed in Ovid Medline, Embase, Scopus, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Clinicaltrials. gov (2000–October 2018) for intervention studies targeting communication behaviors of clinicians and/or patients in oncology. Two authors extracted the following information: population, number of participants, country, number of sites, intervention target, type and context, study design. All included studies were coded based on which behavioral domains were targeted, as defined by Theoretical Domains Framework. Findings Eighty-eight studies met inclusion criteria. Interventions varied widely in which behavioral domains were engaged. Knowledge and skills were engaged most frequently (85%, 75/88 and 73%, 64/88, respectively). Fewer than 5% of studies engaged social influences (3%, 3/ 88) or environmental context/resources (5%, 4/88). No studies engaged reinforcement. Overall, 7/12 behavioral domains were engaged by fewer than 30% of included studies. We identified methodological concerns in many studies. These 88 studies reported 188 different outcome measures, of which 156 measures were reported by individual studies. Conclusions Most communication interventions target few behavioral domains. Increased engagement of behavioral domains in future studies could support communication needs in feasible, specific, and sustainable ways. This study is limited by only including interventions that directly facilitated communication interactions, which excluded stand-alone educational interventions and decision-aids. Also, we applied stringent coding criteria to allow for reproducible, consistent coding, potentially leading to underrepresentation of behavioral domains.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0221536
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


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