Our purpose was to assess the terminology used to describe the different oncologic subspecialties at academic institutions in the United States and determine whether the use of the term “oncologist” to describe a medical oncologist (MO) may affect the multidisciplinary care of patients with cancer.
An electronic survey was sent to chairs and program directors at all 94 academic radiation oncology departments in the United States. Questions assessed the terminology used to describe the oncologic subspecialties in their hospital’s electronic medical record system, their views on how that terminology may affect referral patterns, and the perception of radiation oncologists’ (ROs) role in patient care.
Responses were received from 40 institutions (response rate, 42.6%). Fifteen percent of hospital electronic medical record systems used the term “oncology” instead of “medical oncology” (51%) or “hematology/oncology” (28%). Describing MOs simply as “oncologists” was thought to more likely affect patient views of MOs as the primary decision maker in their cancer care (mean Likert-type rating, 3.43) than it would affect the probability of up-front multidisciplinary referrals (mean Likert-type rating, 2.69). Patient perceptions of ROs as equal partners in care were thought to be less associated with the terminology used to describe MOs (mean Likert-type rating, 3.15) than the behavior of ROs in patient care (mean Likert-type rating, 4.65; < .001), the attitude of MOs toward ROs (mean Likert-type rating, 4.59; < .001), and the involvement of ROs in the initial new patient visits rather than a downstream referral (mean Likert-type rating, 3.95; < .001).
The terminology used to describe MOs was thought to affect patient and provider perceptions of RO, but less so than other patient-provider interaction factors.

© 2020 The Authors.