To describe models used in successful clinical initiatives to improve the quality of palliative care in critical care settings.
We searched the MEDLINE database from inception to April 2010 for all English language articles using the terms “intensive care,” “critical care,” or “ICU” and “palliative care”; we also hand-searched reference lists and author files. Based on review and synthesis of these data and the experiences of our interdisciplinary expert Advisory Board, we prepared this consensus report.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
We critically reviewed the existing data with a focus on models that have been used to structure clinical initiatives to enhance palliative care for critically ill patients in intensive care units and their families.
There are two main models for intensive care unit–palliative care integration: 1) the “consultative model,” which focuses on increasing the involvement and effectiveness of palliative care consultants in the care of intensive care unit patients and their families, particularly those patients identified as at highest risk for poor outcomes; and 2) the “integrative model,” which seeks to embed palliative care principles and interventions into daily practice by the intensive care unit team for all patients and families facing critical illness. These models are not mutually exclusive but rather represent the ends of a spectrum of approaches. Choosing an overall approach from among these models should be one of the earliest steps in planning an intensive care unit–palliative care initiative. This process entails a careful and realistic assessment of available resources, attitudes of key stakeholders, structural aspects of intensive care unit care, and patterns of local practice in the intensive care unit and hospital. A well-structured intensive care unit–palliative care initiative can provide important benefits for patients, families, and providers.
intensive care; critical care; palliative care
To develop a practical set of measures for routine monitoring, performance feedback, and improvement in the quality of palliative care in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Use of an interdisciplinary iterative process to create a prototype “bundle” of indicators within previously established domains of ICU palliative care quality; operationalization of indicators as specified measures; and pilot implementation to evaluate feasibility and baseline ICU performance.
The national Transformation of the Intensive Care Unit program developed in the United States by VHA Inc.
Critically ill patients in ICUs for 1, >3, and >5 days.
Measurements and main results
Palliative care processes including identification of patient preferences and decision making surrogates, communication between clinicians and patients/families, social and spiritual support, and pain assessment and management, as documented in medical records. Application is triggered by specified lengths of ICU stay. Pilot testing in 19 ICUs (review of >100 patients' records) documented feasibility, while revealing opportunities for quality improvement in clinician‐patient/family communication and other key components of ICU palliative care.
The new bundle of measures is a prototype for routine measurement of the quality of palliative care in the ICU. Further investigation is needed to confirm associations between measured processes and outcomes of importance to patients and families, as well as other aspects of validity.
intensive care; critical care; palliative care; quality indicators; communication; pain measurement
There is phase III evidence that formal assessment of patients' symptoms and quality of life can lead to measurable improvements in quality of life. Quality of life assessments using validated tools should become routine in cancer centers.
Palliative medicine is now a recognized medical subspecialty. The goal of palliative medicine is to prevent and relieve suffering, and to support the best possible quality of life for patients and their families, regardless of the stage of their illness.1 Typically, palliative medicine teams consist of multiple disciplines (such as physicians, advanced practice nurses, social workers, and chaplains) to address several domains of the patient experience. Medical oncologists have routinely provided palliative care to their patients along with antineoplastic therapy. Nevertheless, there is a recognized need for an improvement in palliative care delivery to the patient with advanced cancer. This narrative review outlines recent clinical trials of palliative care being integrated into routine oncological care.
Currently the majority of cancer patients are considered ineligible for intensive care treatment and oncologists are struggling to get their patients admitted to intensive care units. Critical care and oncology are frequently two separate worlds that communicate rarely and thus do not share novel developments in their fields. However, cancer medicine is rapidly improving and cancer is eventually becoming a chronic disease. Oncology is therefore characterized by a growing number of older and medically unfit patients that receive numerous novel drug classes with unexpected side effects.
All of these changes will generate more medically challenging patients in acute distress that need to be considered for intensive care. An intense exchange between intensivists, oncologists, psychologists and palliative care specialists is warranted to communicate the developments in each field in order to improve triage and patient treatment. Here, we argue that "critical care of cancer patients" needs to be recognized as a medical subspecialty and that there is an urgent need to develop it systematically.
As prognosis of cancer improves, novel therapeutic concepts are being introduced and more and more older cancer patients receive full treatment the number of acutely ill patients is growing significantly. This development a major challenge to current concepts of intensive care and it needs to be redefined who of these patients should be treated, for how long and how intensively.
Although the majority of hospital deaths occur in the intensive care unit and virtually all critically ill patients and their families have palliative needs, we know little about how patients and families, the most important “stakeholders,” define high-quality intensive care unit palliative care. We conducted this study to obtain their views on important domains of this care.
Qualitative study using focus groups facilitated by a single physician.
A 20-bed general intensive care unit in a 382-bed community hospital in Oklahoma; 24-bed medical–surgical intensive care unit in a 377-bed tertiary, university hospital in urban California; and eight-bed medical intensive care unit in a 311-bed Veterans’ Affairs hospital in a northeastern city.
Randomly-selected patients with intensive care unit length of stay ≥5 days in 2007 to 2008 who survived the intensive care unit, families of survivors, and families of patients who died in the intensive care unit.
Measurements and Main Results
Focus group facilitator used open-ended questions and scripted probes from a written guide. Three investigators independently coded meeting transcripts, achieving consensus on themes. From 48 subjects (15 patients, 33 family members) in nine focus groups across three sites, a shared definition of high-quality intensive care unit palliative care emerged: timely, clear, and compassionate communication by clinicians; clinical decision-making focused on patients’ preferences, goals, and values; patient care maintaining comfort, dignity, and personhood; and family care with open access and proximity to patients, interdisciplinary support in the intensive care unit, and bereavement care for families of patients who died. Participants also endorsed specific processes to operationalize the care they considered important.
Efforts to improve intensive care unit palliative care quality should focus on domains and processes that are most valued by critically ill patients and their families, among whom we found broad agreement in a diverse sample. Measures of quality and effective interventions exist to improve care in domains that are important to intensive care unit patients and families.
intensive care; critical care; palliative care; quality assessment; health care; quality indicators; qualitative research
Palliative care is increasingly recognized as an integral component of comprehensive intensive care for all critically ill patients, regardless of prognosis, and for their families. Here we discuss the key role that nurses can and must continue to play in making this evidence-based paradigm a clinical reality across a broad range of ICUs. We review the contributions of nurses to implementation of ICU safety initiatives as a model that can be applied to ICU palliative care integration. We focus on the importance of nursing involvement in design and application of work processes that facilitate this integration in a systematic way, including processes that ensure the participation of nurses in discussions and decision making with families about care goals. We suggest ways that nurses can help to operationalize an integrated approach to palliative care in the ICU and to define their own essential role in a successful, sustainable ICU palliative care improvement effort. Finally, we identify resources including The IPAL-ICU Project™, a new initiative by the Center to Advance Palliative Care that can assist nurses and other healthcare professionals to move such efforts forward in diverse critical care settings.
intensive care; nurse's role; palliative care
For patients hospitalized with life-threatening illnesses and their families, palliative care consultants can provide critical support by providing information about prognosis, ensuring that symptoms are managed, helping to clarify goals of care, and addressing psychosocial and spiritual concerns. However, once patients leave the hospital, many hospital-based palliative care teams (PCTs) cannot continue to play active roles in patient care. Gaps in discharge planning not only decrease quality of life for patients, but also translate into lack of support for caregivers. The palliative care population would be expected to benefit from a customized approach to hospital discharge. The aim of this study was to identify the range of health care experiences of family caregivers and patients who received palliative care consultations after they left the hospital, and to understand how PCTs might best prepare patients and caregivers for the post-hospital experience.
Although successful models for palliative care delivery and quality improvement in the intensive care unit have been described, their applicability in surgical intensive care unit settings has not been fully addressed. We undertook to define specific challenges, strategies, and solutions for integration of palliative care in the surgical intensive care unit.
We searched the MEDLINE database from inception to May 2011 for all English language articles using the term “surgical palliative care” or the terms “surgical critical care,” “surgical ICU,” “surgeon,” “trauma” or “transplant,” and “palliative care” or “end-of- life care” and hand-searched our personal files for additional articles. Based on review of these articles and the experiences of our interdisciplinary expert Advisory Board, we prepared this report.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
We critically reviewed the existing literature on delivery of palliative care in the surgical intensive care unit setting focusing on challenges, strategies, models, and interventions to promote effective integration of palliative care for patients receiving surgical critical care and their families.
Characteristics of patients with surgical disease and practices, attitudes, and interactions of different disciplines on the surgical critical care team present distinctive issues for intensive care unit palliative care integration and improvement. Physicians, nurses, and other team members in surgery, critical care and palliative care (if available) should be engaged collaboratively to identify challenges and develop strategies. “Consultative,” “integrative,” and combined models can be used to improve intensive care unit palliative care, although optimal use of trigger criteria for palliative care consultation has not yet been demonstrated. Important components of an improvement effort include attention to efficient work systems and practical tools and to attitudinal factors and “culture” in the unit and institution. Approaches that emphasize delivery of palliative care together with surgical critical care hold promise to better integrate palliative care into the surgical intensive care unit.
end-of-life care; ICU palliative care; surgeon attitude; surgical intensive care; surgical outcome; surgical palliative care
Integration of palliative care with standard oncologic care improves quality of life and survival of lung cancer patients. We surveyed physicians to identify factors influencing their decisions for referral to palliative care.
We provided a self-administered questionnaire to physicians caring for lung cancer patients at five medical centers. The questionnaire asked about practices and views with respect to palliative care referral. We used multiple regression analysis to identify predictors of low referral rates (<25%).
Of 155 physicians who returned survey responses, 75 (48%) reported referring <25% of patients for palliative care consultation. Multivariate analysis, controlling for provider characteristics, found that low referral rates were associated with physicians’ concerns that palliative care referral would alarm patients and families [odds ratio (OR) 0.45, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.21–0.98], while the belief that palliative care specialists have more time to discuss complex issues (OR 3.07, 95% CI 1.56–6.02) was associated with higher rates of referral.
Although palliative care consultation is increasingly available and recommended throughout the trajectory of lung cancer, our data indicate it is underutilized. Understanding factors influencing decisions to refer can be used to improve integration of palliative care as part of lung cancer management.
lung cancer; palliative care; physician; survey
PROBLEM BEING ADDRESSED
Family physicians face innumerable challenges to delivering quality palliative home care to meet the complex needs of end-of-life patients and their families.
OBJECTIVE OF PROGRAM
To implement a model of shared care to enhance family physicians’ ability to deliver quality palliative home care, particularly in a community-based setting.
Family physicians in 3 group practices (N = 21) in Ontario’s Niagara West region collaborated with an interprofessional palliative care team (including a palliative care advanced practice nurse, a palliative medicine physician, a bereavement counselor, a psychosocial-spiritual advisor, and a case manager) in a shared-care partnership to provide comprehensive palliative home care. Key features of the program included systematic and timely identification of end-of-life patients, needs assessments, symptom and psychosocial support interventions, regular communication between team members, and coordinated care guided by outcome-based assessment in the home. In addition, educational initiatives were provided to enhance family physicians’ knowledge and skills.
Because of the program, participants reported improved communication, effective interprofessional collaboration, and the capacity to deliver palliative home care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to end-of-life patients in the community.
Large gaps in the delivery of palliative care services exist in the outpatient setting, where there is a failure to address goals of care and to plan for and treat predictable crises. While not originally considered an ideal environment to deliver palliative care services, the emergency department presents a key decision point at which providers set the course for a patient's subsequent trajectory and goals of care. Many patients with serious and life-threatening illness present to emergency departments because symptoms, such as pain or nausea and vomiting, cannot be controlled at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a provider's office. Even for patients in whom goals of care are clear, families often need support for their loved one's physical as well as mental distress. The emergency department is often the only place that can provide needed interventions (e.g., intravenous fluids or pain medications) as well as immediate access to advanced diagnostic tests (e.g. computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging).
Palliative care services provide relief of burdensome symptoms, attention to spiritual and social concerns, goal setting, and patient–provider communication that are often not addressed in the acute care setting. While emergency providers could provide some of these services, there is a knowledge gap regarding palliative care in the emergency department setting. Emergency department-based palliative care programs are currently consultations for symptoms and/or goals of care, and have been initiated both by both the palliative care team and palliative care champions in the emergency department. Some programs have focused on the provision of hospice services through partnerships with hospice providers, which can potentially help emergency department providers with disposition.
Although some data on pilot programs are available, optimal models of delivery of emergency department-based palliative care have not been rigorously studied. Research is needed to determine how these services are best organized, what affect they will have on patients and caregivers, and whether they can decrease symptom burden and health care utilization.
The terms palliative care, supportive care, and comfort care are used to describe individualized care that can provide a dying person the best quality of life until the end. The term “end-of-life care” is also used in a general sense to refer to all aspects of care of a patient with a potentially fatal condition. While the concept of palliative care is not new, it has only recently been applied to the neonatal population. To the best of our knowledge, none of the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in Saudi Arabia have adopted a neonatal program for palliative care. We believe the main reason is lack of knowledge of such programs and the fear of being accused of being heartless and cruel by providing comfort care for dying babies. Comfort care begins with the diagnosis of a life-threatening/terminal condition, and continues throughout the course of illness regardless of the outcome. In this perspective, our aim is to introduce these programs for caregivers in the NICUs in Saudi Arabia. For this purpose, we have reviewed the current recommendations in establishing neonatal palliative care programs and discussed some of the social and religious aspects pertaining to this issue.
Background and Context:
Treatment of terminally ill cancer patients always poses great challenges especially when these critical patients are admitted in intensive care unit (ICU). The severity of their diseases throws a clinical and ethical dilemma to the treating intensivist.
Aims and Objectives:
To evaluate the benefits of intensive care treatment in terminally ill cancer patients and also to find out whether optimal utilization of critical care resources has got any positive financial, psychological and clinical outcome.
Materials and Methods:
A retrospective evaluation of 53 terminally ill cancer patients, who got admitted to ICU of our department, was carried out. Majority of these patients presented with terminal phase of illness involving multi-organ pathologies with diverse range of symptoms. These patients were provided ventilatory, symptomatic and supportive treatment on patient-to-patient basis. Strict and vigilant monitoring of all vital parameters was carried out. At the end of study, all the data was compiled systematically and was subjected to statistical analysis using non parametric tests.
The demographic profile of such patients was highly variable with regard to educational, social and financial status (P<0.05). The most common group of cancer was hematological malignancies (24.53%) followed by lung cancer (18.87%), uteri-ovarian (15.09), colorectal (13.2%) and others. Significant number (P<0.05) of patients (64.15%) required mechanical ventilation and ionotropic support (79.24%). Mortality increased with increasing number of organ system involvement and reaching up to 100% with involvement of 5 or more organ systems.
ICU care is the best form of treatment for terminally ill but resources should be used optimally so that a young deserving patient should not be sacrificed for the scarcity of resources.
Cancer; Intensive care; Mechanical ventilation; Respiratory failure; Terminally ill
High-quality care for intensive care unit patients and families includes palliative care. To promote performance improvement, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s National Quality Measures Clearinghouse identified nine evidence-based processes of intensive care unit palliative care (Care and Communication Bundle) that are measured through review of medical record documentation. We conducted this study to examine how frequently the Care and Communication Bundle processes were performed in diverse intensive care units and to understand patient factors that are associated with such performance.
Prospective, multisite, observational study of performance of key intensive care unit palliative care processes.
A surgical intensive care unit and a medical intensive care unit in two different large academic health centers and a medical-surgical intensive care unit in a medium-sized community hospital.
Consecutive adult patients with length of intensive care unit stay ≥5 days.
Measurements and Main Results
Between November 2007 and December 2009, we measured performance by specified day after intensive care unit admission on nine care process measures: identify medical decision-maker, advance directive and resuscitation preference, distribute family information leaflet, assess and manage pain, offer social work and spiritual support, and conduct interdisciplinary family meeting. Multivariable regression analysis was used to determine predictors of performance of five care processes. We enrolled 518 (94.9%) patients and 336 (83.6%) family members. Performances on pain assessment and management measures were high. In contrast, interdisciplinary family meetings were documented for <20% of patients by intensive care unit day 5. Performance on other measures ranged from 8% to 43%, with substantial variation across and within sites. Chronic comorbidity burden and site were the most consistent predictors of care process performance.
Across three intensive care units in this study, performance of key palliative care processes (other than pain assessment and management) was inconsistent and infrequent. Available resources and strategies should be utilized for performance improvement in this area of high importance to patients, families, and providers.
The scope of palliative care has expanded gradually over the last decade. Provision of palliative care is not restricted to the last months of life as in some out-dated concepts. It addresses the needs of severely ill patients in all care settings (in- and outpatients, home care, hospices). Particularly in the last years, the value of integrating palliative care early in the disease trajectory of life-threatening and incurable diseases has become increasingly acknowledged. In order for patients to fully benefit from the concept of early integration of palliative care, they need to be provided with information tailored to their disease trajectory. For example, patients and relatives need to know how symptoms such as pain, depression, fatigue, breathlessness, or anxiety can be alleviated. The patients’ knowledge and understanding will support the coping process, improve comfort and enhance patient participation and autonomy. Since information needs are highly individual and vary throughout the course of the disease, an interactive approach of assessing the patients’ needs and responding to them adequately is mandatory. In this article, the information needs of advanced cancer patients and their families are explained, shortcomings of the present information concepts are discussed, and an integrative approach to responding to patients’ information needs throughout the care pathway is advocated.
Patient information; Communication; Palliative care; Early integration; Advanced cancer; Shared decision-making
The goal of palliative care is to prevent suffering and manage symptoms, maintain quality of life, and to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support for patients and their loved ones. Currently, palliative care measures focus largely on patients with cancer and these models have not been effectively applied to patients with chronic lung disease. Patients with lung disease have a reduced quality of life and a burden of symptoms that is at least as great, if not greater than, patients with cancer, and they commonly experience significant pain, dyspnea, and fatigue. In addition, dementia and delirium can often play a significant role in older patients. Research suggests that patients with chronic lung disease receive suboptimal palliative care due in large part to inadequate communication with their physicians. When patients have made decisions about life-sustaining therapies, physicians often either don’t know the patients’ wishes or misunderstand them. Additionally, depression, which is common in older patients with chronic illness, may influence patients’ decisions about end-of-life care. Clinicians should realize that the vast majority of patients want more information about end-of-life care and that efforts to initiate and improve communication with their patients are important. This article reviews the potential for enhanced palliative care for older patients with chronic lung disease.
End-of-life care; communication; decision-making; palliative care; burden of symptoms
The uncertain trajectory of chronic critical illness exposes the patient’s family to heightened levels of psychological distress. Symptoms of psychological distress affect more than half of family members exposed to the patient’s chronic critical illness. Although symptoms often dissipate over time, a significant proportion of family members will remain at moderate to high risk for psychological distress well after the patient’s death or discharge from the intensive care unit. Family members of chronically critically ill (CCI) patients are often involved in the decision making for the CCI. Irrational or uninformed decision making can occur when family members experience high levels of psychological distress. Attention to the psychological needs and provision of support to family members enhance the formulation of treatment decisions consistent with the patient’s preferences and mitigate unnecessary resource use. In this article, the impact of chronic critical illness on family members’ risk for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder is described and a review of evidence-based strategies to support the psychological needs of family members coping with a patient’s chronic critical illness is provided.
chronically critically ill (CCI); prolonged mechanical ventilation; family members; depression; anxiety; post-traumatic stress disorder; psychological outcomes; evidence-based practices
Palliative care should be integrated early into the care trajectories of people with life threatening illness such as stroke. However published guidance focuses primarily on the end of life, and there is a gap in the evidence about how the palliative care needs of acute stroke patients and families should be addressed. Synthesising data across a programme of related studies, this paper presents an explanatory framework for the integration of palliative and acute stroke care.
Data from a survey (n=191) of patient-reported palliative care needs and interviews (n=53) exploring experiences with patients and family members were explored in group interviews with 29 staff from 3 United Kingdom stroke services. A realist approach to theory building was used, constructed around the mechanisms that characterise integration, their impacts, and mediating, contextual influences.
The framework includes two cognitive mechanisms (the legitimacy of palliative care and individual capacity), and behavioural mechanisms (engaging with family; the timing of intervention; working with complexity; and the recognition of dying) through which staff integrate palliative and stroke care. A range of clinical (whether patients are being ‘actively treated’, and prognostic uncertainty) and service (leadership, specialty status and neurological focus) factors appear to influence how palliative care needs are attended to.
Our framework is the first, empirical explanation of the integration of palliative and acute stroke care. The specification in the framework of factors that mediate integration can inform service development to improve the outcomes and experiences of patients and families.
Acute stroke; Palliative care; Integration; Synthesis; Theory development; End of life care
Through participant observation, questions concerning optimal care of dying patients and needs of their families were answered. A general surgical ward and a palliative care unit were the sites of observation. The observations support the belief that a palliative care unit, specifically designed to meet the known needs of dying patients and their families, is preferable to a general surgical ward. The main findings, of less concern in the palliative care unit than on the surgical ward, were the following: the importance of patient-to-patient support; the discomfort of sick-role behaviour; the impersonal and sometimes intimidating nature of patient care; the limitation of the patient's need (as a person) to give as well as to receive; and the value of families, student nurses and volunteers in total care. These findings emphasize the importance of personal interest in relieving the distress suffered by many terminally ill patients.
Patients treated in a palliative care unit were compared with those treated by a palliative care consultation service at the same center. The coexistence of the two institutions at one hospital contributed to the goal of ensuring optimal palliative care for patients in complex and challenging clinical situations.
Palliative care (PC) infrastructure has developed differently around the globe. Whereas some institutions consider the palliative care unit (PCU) a valuable component, others report that the sole provision of a state-of-the art palliative care consultation service (PCCS) suffices to adequately care for the severely ill and dying.
To aid institutional planning, this study aimed at gathering patient data to distinguish assignments of a concomitantly run PCU and PCCS at a large hospital and academic medical center.
Demographics, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status, symptom/problem burden, discharge modality, and team satisfaction with care for all 601 PCU and 851 PCCS patients treated in 2009 and 2010 were retrospectively analyzed.
Patients admitted to the PCU versus those consulted by the PCCS: (a) had a significantly worse performance status (odds ratio [OR], 1.48); (b) were significantly more likely to suffer from severe symptoms and psychosocial problems (OR, 2.05), in particular concerning physical suffering and complexity of care; and (c) were significantly much more likely to die during hospital stay (OR, 11.03). For patients who were dying or in other challenging clinical situations (suffering from various severe symptoms), self-rated team satisfaction was significantly higher for the PCU than the PCCS.
This study presents a direct comparison between patients in a PCU and a PCCS. Results strongly support the hypothesis that the coexistence of both institutions in one hospital contributes to the goal of ensuring optimal high-quality PC for patients in complex and challenging clinical situations.
Palliative care; Terminal care; Organization and administration; Health planning guidelines; Institutionalization
According to the Word Health Organization, patients who can benefit from palliative care should be identified earlier to enable proactive palliative care. Up to now, this is not common practice and has hardly been addressed in scientific literature. Still, palliative care is limited to the terminal phase and restricted to patients with cancer. Therefore, we trained general practitioners (GPs) in identifying palliative patients in an earlier phase of their disease trajectory and in delivering structured proactive palliative care. The aim of our study is to determine if this training, in combination with consulting an expert in palliative care regarding each palliative patient's tailored care plan, can improve different aspects of the quality of the remaining life of patients with severe chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and cancer.
A two-armed randomized controlled trial was performed. As outcome variables we studied: place of death, number of hospital admissions and number of GP out of hours contacts.
We expect that this study will increase the number of identified palliative care patients and improve different aspects of quality of palliative care. This is of importance to improve palliative care for patients with COPD, CHF and cancer and their informal caregivers, and to empower the GP. The study protocol is described and possible strengths and weaknesses and possible consequences have been outlined.
The Netherlands National Trial Register: NTR2815
Palliative and end-of-life care is changing in the United States. This dynamic field is improving the care for patients with serious and life-threatening cancer through creation of national guidelines for quality care, multidisciplinary educational offerings, research endeavors, and resources made available to clinicians. Barriers to implementing quality palliative care across cancer populations include a rapidly expanding population of older adults who will need cancer care and a decrease in the workforce available to give care. Ways to integrate current palliative care knowledge into care of patients include multidisciplinary national education and research endeavors, and clinician resources. Acceptance of palliative care as a recognized medical specialty provides a valuable resource for improvement of care. While the evidence base for palliative care is only beginning, national research support has assisted in providing support to build the knowledge foundation for appropriate palliative care. Opportunities are available for clinicians to understand and apply appropriate palliative and end-of-life care to patients with serious and life-threatening cancers.
Palliative Care; Advanced Cancer; Palliative Education; Hospice
The moment when a physician raises the possibility of discontinuing palliative chemotherapy at the end of life is a critical moment in the illness, and a difficult conversation. Expert recommendations cite the importance of giving bad news in these situations but there is limited research addressing how physicians should discuss transitions in goals of care from disease-modifying therapy to end-of-life care. While existing research includes survey data and observational studies of oncologist outpatient visits with patient who have advanced cancer, there are no studies that characterize actual physician communication behaviors when the physician tried to initiate a transitions conversation with a patient who has advanced cancer.
In this study, we examined the communication approaches used by oncology fellows discussing transitions with a standardized patient using audiorecordings collected prior to an intensive communication skills workshop. In this preworkshop encounter, each oncology fellow had the task of discussing a transition in goals of care with a patient who was experiencing cancer progression despite treatment with existing evidence-based therapies. We used qualitative methodology to characterize the approaches used by oncology fellows in 20 of these pre-workshop conversations.
We identified two themes in the approaches that fellows used: (1) the limitations of biomedical disease-modifying treatments and (2) the possibility of a new direction for medical care when disease-modifying treatments have been exhausted.
We found that for each theme, fellows tended to emphasize a logical frame or an experiential frame. Understanding these frames could be useful in designing future communication skills training interventions.
PROBLEM BEING ADDRESSED: Access to palliative care in Edmonton has been hampered by uneven development, poor distribution of services, and more recently, economic restraints. Family physicians' involvement in palliative care has been hindered by the variety of access points, poor coordination, and inadequate reimbursement for time-consuming and difficult patient care situations. OBJECTIVE OF PROGRAM: To provide high-quality palliative care throughout Edmonton in all settings, with patients able to move easily throughout the components of the program; to lower costs by having fewer palliative care patients die in acute care facilities; and to ensure that family physicians receive support to care for most patients at home or in palliative care units. MAIN COMPONENTS OF PROGRAM: The program includes a regional office, home care, and consultant teams. A specialized 14-bed palliative care unit provides acute care. Family physicians are the primary caregivers in the 56 palliative continuing care unit beds. CONCLUSIONS: This program appears to meet most of the need for palliative care in Edmonton. Family physicians, with support from consulting teams, have a central role. Evaluation is ongoing; an important issue is how best to support patients dying at home.
Pain relief and palliative care play an increasingly important role in the overall approach to critically ill and injured patients. Despite significant progress in clinical patient care, our understanding of death and the dying process remains limited. For various reasons, people tend to delay facing questions associated with end-of-life, and the fear of the unknown often creates an environment of avoidance and an atmosphere of taboo. The topic of end-of-life care is multifaceted. It incorporates medical, ethical, spiritual, and religious aspects, among many others. Our ability to sustain the lives of the critically ill may be complicated by continuing life support in medically futile scenarios. This article, as well as the remainder of the IJCIIS Symposium on End-of-Life in Trauma/Intensive Care Unit, will explore the most important issues in the field of modern end-of-life care and palliative medicine, with a focus on critically ill and injured patients.
Pain and palliative care; Intensive care unit; Latest developments; Clinical standards