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Uncertainty during potential cancer diagnosis in the ERICA trial


Project Description

The studentship is embedded within the ERICA trial: A large randomised controlled trial in a planned 530 English practices examining whether integrating electronic cancer diagnostic algorithms (known as electronic Risk Assessment Tools, or eRATs) into GP clinical software allows earlier detection of cancer.

The PhD studentship explores important aspects of the trial relating to uncertainty during potential cancer diagnosis.

The doctor-patient relationship is a critical aspect of patient care with implications for health outcomes. Clinical consultations that include a potential cancer diagnosis may be shrouded in uncertainty for both the patient and the general practitioner (GP). Under conditions of uncertainty both the GP’s and patient’s information processing are impacted – patients may misunderstand the risk information and/or have their perception of risk affected by their emotional reaction to the situation; clinicians may rely on mental heuristics, or biases, in their decision making. The consequences of such uncertainties mean i) GP decision making may lead to inequity in patient care, ii) patients may adopt different preferences about the degree and detail of information they wish to receive about the consequences of investigations and a potential cancer diagnosis. Uncertainty within both parties has the potential to threaten the doctor-patient relationship.


The programme of work will explore the impact of uncertainty on both the patient’s and GP’s information processing and lead to the development of a toolkit to support both parties and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.

Funding Notes

The University of Exeter’s College of Medicine and Health, in partnership with the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation, is offering a fully-funded PhD studentship with an annual stipend of £15,009 plus UK/EU tuition fees, for a maximum of 36 months.
The start date is September 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter.

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