Quality of life (QL) assessments are increasingly being included in clinical trials, but their use in clinical practice is still uncommon. The objectives of this study were to investigate the feasibility of introducing individual QL assessments into the daily routine of an out-patient oncology clinic, and the potential impact of such assessments on doctor-patient communication. The study sample included six physicians and 18 of their patients from the out-patient clinic of the Netherlands Cancer Institute/Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. For each patient, three follow-up consultations were observed. The first visit was employed for the purpose of a baseline measurement. At the two subsequent visits, the patients were asked to complete the EORTC QLQ-C30, a standardised cancer-specific QL questionnaire. The patients' responses were computer-scored and transformed into a graphic summary. The summary included current scores as well as those elicited at the previous visit. Both the physicians and the patients received a copy of the summary just prior to the medical consultation. Completing, scoring and printing the QL data could be done during waiting room time. The availability of the summary did not lengthen the average consultation time. A small increase was noted in the average number of QL issues discussed per consultation. However, the most notable trend was the increased responsibility taken by the physicians in raising specific QL issues for discussion. When the QL summary was available, the physicians raised three times as many topics than was the case prior to its use (P < 0.05). All six physicians and the majority of patients believed that the QL summary facilitated communication, and expressed interest in continued use of the procedure. The introduction of individual QL assessments in routine out-patient oncology practice is feasible and appears to stimulate physicians to inquire into specific aspects of the health and well-being of their patients. However, given the methodological limitations of this pilot study, the results should be interpreted with caution.