Decision-relevant information processing among breast cancer patients: an eye-tracking study  

Published on March 16, 2023 – Patients’ prior realization of and experience with what information is relevant result in more in-depth information processing among older breast cancer patients, but not among younger breast cancer patients. 

Choosing a hospital to undergo treatment can be a difficult step for newly diagnosed cancer patients. Online hospital report cards (HRCs) aim to support these patients in their hospital choice. However, the information in HRCs is not always easy to process because patients are expected to compare multiple choice options that have conflicting attributes. Especially older adults (≥ 65 years) might experience cognitive overload because they face age-related declines in working memory capacity.

In this eye-tracking study, combined with a short survey, we aimed to gain insight into how breast cancer patients visually attend to decision-relevant information in a simplified yet realistic HRC. We also aimed to explore whether differences exist in visual attention between older and younger patients. Thirty-seven breast cancer patients, survivors, and women who do not have a history of (breast) cancer participated in the study.

The results indicated that women looked longer at information about the hospital of their choice and at the indicators that they perceived to be most important. There were no differences in visual attention between younger and older women. Among patients (vs non-patients), however, per fixation, older women looked longer at the hospital of choice, as well as at the indicators they found most relevant than younger women.

These findings contribute to the existing knowledge on how to improve complex healthcare information for different subgroups of patients.

Read the full paper here.