gms | German Medical Science

27th German Cancer Congress Berlin 2006

German Cancer Society (Frankfurt/M.)

22. - 26.03.2006, Berlin

Patient competence: An evolving construct in psycho-oncology.

Meeting Abstract

Search Medline for

27. Deutscher Krebskongress. Berlin, 22.-26.03.2006. Düsseldorf, Köln: German Medical Science; 2006. DocIS039

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: March 20, 2006

© 2006 Giesler.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



In psycho-oncology as well as in other fields of psychosocial medicine, “patient competence” primarily appears to be a programmatic and sensitizing concept that directs the attention of practitioners and researchers alike towards patients’ wishes for active participation in treatment decision making and treatment itself. To be empirically useful for research on possible health outcomes of “patient competence”, however, two basic requirements are to be met. First, the concept should be defined as concisely as possible and in accordance with psychological conceptions of competence. Second, measures should be developed that capture the whole range of inter-individual differences in “patient competence”. Viewed from that perspective, in the field of oncology “patient competence” is to be understood as a patient’s ability to manage tasks and distress arising from cancer and its treatment, thereby being guided by individual goals and needs and making use of support available from her or his social network and from the health care system as a whole. Closely related to this working definition of “patient competence” is a domain model specifying different areas of behaviour in which “patient competence” is assumed to manifest itself. Taken together, the working definition and the domain model provide a sound basis for constructing measures of inter-individual differences in “patient competence” and its possible components. Starting from the considerations above the Tumor Biology Centre, Freiburg i. Br., developed a preliminary version of a questionnaire measure of “patient competence” and tested its reliability in a multi-centre study completed recently. Data analysis yielded preliminary evidence that essential components of “patient competence” as hypothesized by the domain model can in fact be measured reliably by that instrument. Insofar, first steps have been accomplished to fulfil requirements crucial for analysing health outcomes of “patient competence” empirically. However, studying possible effects of “patient competence” on disease course and survival in cancer will have to confront additional challenges.