A study of Chinese cancer patients' health information preferences and practices
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Health communications are pivotal to cancer patients’ care and management, yet no empirical knowledge exists that could explain how cancer patients’ information preferences (needs and wants) and practices (seeking, avoiding, sharing, and accepting) interact and influence their health outcomes, especially for Chinese cancer patients. This grounded theory study focuses on identifying factors that shape the relationship between Chinese cancer patients’ health information preferences and practices, with close consideration of Chinese cultural context. This study recruited eighteen cancer patients to be interviewed using the purposive theoretical sampling technique, with data analysis guided by the constant comparative method. The basic social process emerged in response to the research question is: interaction with health information is a family activity. This basic social process is further manifested in the theoretical categories identified: getting prepared for managing cancer, prioritizing questions according to family needs, balancing truth, trust, and respect, navigating around information sources (two sub-categories: nurturing the support network and focusing on productive interactions), and responding to culturally-sensitive cancer care. The findings suggest that it is important to acknowledge and address the family’s indispensable role in Chinese cancer patients’ interaction with health information. What might be considered self-management of cancer among Chinese cancer patients appears to be more akin to family-management of cancer. Also, Chinese cancer patients’ other culturally-sensitive care needs (e.g., socially appropriate interaction with healthcare professionals or HCPs) also emerged as important, as these patients’ health information preferences and practices center on the need to be culturally respectful. Results of this study suggest that it is imperative for HCPs, when responding to patients’ questions and concerns, to adopt culturally-sensitive communication styles. This includes empathetic consideration of the interests and characteristics of patients and their family members in order to achieve respectful and constructive patient-family-provider communication. The adoption and diffusion of these empathetic communication styles have the potential to improve patients’ health outcomes (e.g., quality of life) along with optimizing valuable medical resources. This dissertation discusses, in more detail, the implications that can emerge with the adoption and diffusion of empathetic communication styles.