Physician communication regarding prostate cancer screening: Analysis of unannounced standardized patient visits

Bo Feng, Malathi Srinivasan, Jerome R. Hoffman, Julie A. Rainwater, Erin Griffin, Marko Dragojevic, Frank C. Day, Michael S. Wilkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Purpose Prostate cancer screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a controversial issue. The present study aimed to explore physician behaviors during an unannounced standardized patient encounter that was part of a randomized controlled trial to educate physicians using a prostate cancer screening, interactive, Web-based module. Methods Participants included 118 internal medicine and family medicine physicians from 5 health systems in California, in 2007-2008. Control physicians received usual education about prostate cancer screening (brochures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Intervention physicians participated in the prostate cancer screening module. Within 3 months, all physicians saw unannounced standardized patients who prompted prostate cancer screening discussions in clinic. The encounter was audio-recorded, and the recordings were transcribed. Authors analyzed physician behaviors around screening: (1) engagement after prompting, (2) degree of shared decision making, and (3) final recommendations for prostate cancer screening. Results After prompting, 90% of physicians discussed prostate cancer screening. In comparison with control physicians, intervention physicians showed somewhat more shared decision making behaviors (intervention 14 items vs control 11 items, P <.05), were more likely to mention no screening as an option (intervention 63% vs control 26%, P <.05), to encourage patients to consider different screening options (intervention 62% vs control 39%, P <.05) and seeking input from others (intervention 25% vs control 7%, P <.05). Conclusions A brief Web-based interactive educational intervention can improve shared decision making, neutrality in recommendation, and reduce PSA test ordering. Engaging patients in discussion of the uses and limitations of tests with uncertain value can decrease utilization of the tests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-323
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Family Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding support: This work was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant RO1PH000019 .


  • Health communication
  • Medical education
  • Patient-centered care
  • Primary care
  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate cancer screening
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Risk-benefit assessment
  • Shared decision making
  • Unannounced standardized patients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


Dive into the research topics of 'Physician communication regarding prostate cancer screening: Analysis of unannounced standardized patient visits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this