Primary health care providers play a dominant role in the provision of palliative care (PC) in Australia but many gaps in after hours service remain. In some rural areas only 19% of people receiving palliative care achieve their goal of dying at home. This study, which builds on an earlier qualitative phase of the project, investigates the gaps in care from the perspective of general practitioners (GPs) and PC nurses.
Questionnaires, developed from the outcomes of the earlier phase, and containing both structured and open ended questions, were distributed through Divisions of General Practice (1 urban, 1 rural, 1 mixed) to GPs (n = 524) and through a special interest group to palliative care nurses (n = 122) in both rural and urban areas.
Questionnaires were returned by 114 GPs (22%) and 52 nurses (43%). The majority of GPs were associated with a practice which provided some after hours services but PC was not a strong focus for most. This was reflected in low levels of PC training, limited awareness of the existence of after hours triage services in their area, and of the availability of Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) Medicare items for care planning for palliative patients. However, more than half of both nurses and GPs were aware of accessible PC resources.
Factors such as poor communication and limited availability of after hours services were identified the as most likely to impact negatively on service provision. Strategies considered most likely to improve after hours services were individual patient protocols, palliative care trained respite carers and regular multidisciplinary meetings that included the GP.
While some of the identified gaps can only be met by long term funding and policy change, educational tools for use in training programs in PC for health professionals, which focus on the utilisation of EPC Medicare items in palliative care planning, the development of advance care plans and good communication between members of multidisciplinary teams, which include the GP, may enhance after hours service provision for patients receiving palliative care at home. The role of locums in after PC is an area for further research
Patients with HIV/AIDS on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) suffer from physical, psychological and spiritual problems. Despite international policy explicitly stating that a multidimensional approach such as palliative care should be delivered throughout the disease trajectory and alongside treatment, the effectiveness of this approach has not been tested in ART-experienced populations.
This mixed methods study uses a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) to test the null hypothesis that receipt of palliative care in addition to standard HIV care does not affect pain compared to standard care alone. An additional qualitative component will explore the mechanism of action and participant experience. The sample size is designed to detect a statistically significant decrease in reported pain, determined by a two tailed test and a p value of ≤0.05. Recruited patients will be adults on ART for more than one month, who report significant pain or symptoms which have lasted for more than two weeks (as measured by the African Palliative Care Association (APCA) African Palliative Outcome Scale (POS)). The intervention under trial is palliative care delivered by an existing HIV facility nurse trained to a set standard. Following an initial pilot the study will be delivered in two African countries, using two parallel independent Phase III clinical RCTs. Qualitative data will be collected from semi structured interviews and documentation from clinical encounters, to explore the experience of receiving palliative care in this context.
The data provided by this study will provide evidence to inform the improvement of outcomes for people living with HIV and on ART in Africa.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01608802
HIV; ART; Palliative care; Africa; Evaluation
ENABLE (Educate, Nurture, Advise Before Life Ends) II was one of the first randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the effects of a concurrent oncology palliative care intervention on quality of life, mood, and symptom control for advanced cancer patients and their caregivers. However, little is known about how participants experience early palliative care and the benefits and burdens of participating in a palliative care clinical trial.
To gain a deeper understanding of participants’ perspectives about the intervention and palliative care trial participation.
A qualitative descriptive study using thematic analysis to determine benefits and burdens of a new palliative care intervention and trial participation.
Of the 72 participants who were alive when the study commenced, 53 agreed to complete an in-depth, semi-structured interview regarding the ENABLE II intervention and clinical trial participation.
Participants’ perceptions of intervention benefits were represented by four themes: enhanced problem-solving skills, better coping, feeling empowered, and feeling supported or reassured. Three themes related to trial participation: helping future patients and contributing to science, gaining insight through completion of questionnaires, and trial/intervention aspects to improve.
The benefits of the intervention and the positive aspects of trial participation outweighed trial “burdens”. This study raises additional important questions relevant to future trial design and intervention development: when should a palliative care intervention be initiated and what aspects of self-care and healthy living should be offered in addition to palliative content for advanced cancer patients when they are feeling well?
Qualitative Study; Randomized Controlled Trial; Palliative Care; Intervention study
The American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) Guidelines for the Management of Heart Failure recommend palliative care in the context of Stage D HF or at the end of life. Previous studies related to heart failure (HF) palliative care provide useful information about patients' experiences, but they do not provide concrete guidance for what palliative care needs are most important and how a palliative care program should be structured.
Describe HF patients' and their family caregivers' major concerns and needs. Explore whether, how, and when palliative care would be useful to them.
Design and participants
Qualitative study using in-depth interviews of 33 adult outpatients with symptomatic HF identified using purposive sampling and 20 of their family caregivers.
Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using the constant comparative method.
Overall, patients and caregivers desired early support adjusting to the limitations and future course of illness, relief of a number of diverse symptoms, and the involvement of family caregivers using a team approach. A diverse group of participants desired these elements of palliative care early in illness, concurrent with their disease-specific care, coordinated by a provider who understood their heart condition and knew them well. Some diverging needs and preferences were found based on health status and age.
HF patients and their family caregivers supported early integration of palliative care services, particularly psychosocial support and symptom control, using a collaborative team approach. Future research should test the feasibility and effectiveness of integrating such a program into routine HF care.
Clinical depression is highly prevalent yet under-detected and under-treated in palliative care settings and is associated with a number of adverse medical and psychological outcomes for patients and their family members. This article presents a study protocol to evaluate a training intervention for non-physician palliative care staff to improve the recognition of depression and provide support for depressed patients and their family members. Details of the hypotheses and expected outcomes, study design, training program development and evaluation measures are described.
Methods and Design
A randomised controlled trial will be implemented across two palliative care services to evaluate the "Training program for professional carers to recognise and manage depression in palliative care settings". Pre-, post- and three-month follow-up data will be collected to assess: the impact of the training on the knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy and perceived barriers of palliative care staff when working with depression; referral rates for depression; and changes to staff practices. Quantitative and qualitative methods, in the form of self-report questionnaires and interviews with staff and family members, will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.
This study will determine the effectiveness of an intervention that aims to respond to the urgent need for innovative programs to target depression in the palliative care setting. The expected outcome of this study is the validation of an evidence-based training program to improve staff recognition and appropriate referrals for depression, as well as improve psychosocial support for depressed patients and their family members.
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12610000183088
To maintain patients’ quality of life is one of the major goals in palliative home care provided by general practitioners (GPs). GPs need adequate training to care for palliative patients. The paper seeks to evaluate whether a specific training in Germany (PAMINO) has any improving impact on the care of palliative patients and their health-related quality of life.
From September 2007 until June 2009, GPs and their palliative care patients with cancer participated in a study to evaluate palliative courses for GPs offered by a regional palliative care initiative (PAMINO). For a period of six months at most or until death, patients were asked monthly to judge their quality of life on the Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 15 Palliative (QLQ-C15-PAL) of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and on the Palliative Care Outcome Scale (POS). The ‘Overall quality of life’ scale of the QLQ-C15-PAL takes values between 0 and 100 with higher values indicating a higher quality of life. The POS sum scale takes values between 0 and 40 with higher values indicating worse care outcomes. Patients cared for by PAMINO-trained GPs and patients cared for by other GPs (control group) are compared using t-tests for differences in group means.
One hundred patients participated in the study; 96 patients filled out the questionnaires at least once. On the QLQ-C15-PAL, mean quality of life of the patient groups of PAMINO-trained and other GPs were 37.7 (SD = 25.5) and 39.4 (SD = 26.3) (p = .76), respectively. On the POS, respective mean values of 13.6 (SD = 5.8) and 12.0 (SD = 6.5) (p = .26) were given. Patients cared for by a PAMINO-trained GP did not report better quality of life and care outcomes than patients cared for by other general practitioners.
Patients cared for by PAMINO-trained and other GPs in our study did not report differences in quality of life. Quality of life and care outcomes of all patients were better than of palliative patients in institutional or specialized care, emphasizing the ability of GPs to provide adequate care for these vulnerable patients. However, conclusions need to be drawn cautiously since the study had a small sample size.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN78021852
BACKGROUND: Problems with the provision of palliative care have been reported. Audit is one means of improving care. Earlier audits of primary care palliative care have been initiated by general practitioners (GPs) and are predominantly retrospective record reviews. Widely applicable methods for the audit of primary care palliative care do not exist. AIM: To develop relevant palliative care standards and to devise an audit schedule (the Cambridge palliative audit schedule, CAMPAS) suitable for monitoring palliative care in diverse primary care settings. METHOD: Primary health care team (PHCT) members collaborated at all stages. Reasonable outcomes and acceptable interventions for PHCTs were identified and standards developed. Each standard was constructed to ensure uniform interpretation, and CAMPAS was structured to collect data necessary for determining whether the standards were met. RESULTS: Over 50% of PHCTs (n = 20) in the health district were recruited and trained to use CAMPAS. A total of 876 contacts with 29 patients was recorded by PHCTs using CAMPAS. Considerable inter- and intra-PHCT variation was found in the achievement of the standards. CONCLUSIONS: The favourable participation rate suggests commitment to audit and improvement in patient care. Overall, the standards were reported to be suitable. Although 100% achievement of some standards may be unrealistic, the level of attainment for many suggests that it is possible. CAMPAS has been reported to be a useful structure for recording assessments and monitoring care, as well as a usable audit schedule. As an audit tool, it identified areas in need of improvement and facilitated feed-back to participants. Future audit is required to determine whether improvements in care have been effected.
Due to the growing number of elderly with advanced chronic conditions, healthcare services will come under increasing pressure. Teleconsultation is an innovative approach to deliver quality of care for palliative patients at home. Quantitative studies assessing the effect of teleconsultation on clinical outcomes are scarce. The aim of this present study is to investigate the effectiveness of teleconsultation in complex palliative homecare.
During a 2-year recruitment period, GPs are invited to participate in this cluster randomized controlled trial. When a GP refers an eligible patient for the study, the GP is randomized to the intervention group or the control group. Patients in the intervention group have a weekly teleconsultation with a nurse practitioner and/or a physician of the palliative consultation team. The nurse practitioner, in cooperation with the palliative care specialist of the palliative consultation team, advises the GP on treatment policy of the patient. The primary outcome of patient symptom burden is assessed at baseline and weekly using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) and at baseline and every four weeks using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Secondary outcomes are self-perceived burden from informal care (EDIZ), patient experienced continuity of medical care (NCQ), patient and caregiver satisfaction with the teleconsultation (PSQ), the experienced problems and needs in palliative care (PNPC-sv) and the number of hospital admissions.
This is one of the first randomized controlled trials in palliative telecare. Our data will verify whether telemedicine positively affects palliative homecare.
The Netherlands National Trial Register NTR2817
Objective To explore how transitions to a palliative care approach are perceived to be managed in acute hospital settings in England.
Design Qualitative study.
Setting Secondary or primary care settings in two contrasting areas of England.
Participants 58 health professionals involved in the provision of palliative care in secondary or primary care.
Results Participants identified that a structured transition to a palliative care approach of the type advocated in UK policy guidance is seldom evident in acute hospital settings. In particular they reported that prognosis is not routinely discussed with inpatients. Achieving consensus among the clinical team about transition to palliative care was seen as fundamental to the transition being effected; however, this was thought to be insufficiently achieved in practice. Secondary care professionals reported that discussions about adopting a palliative care approach to patient management were not often held with patients; primary care professionals confirmed that patients were often discharged from hospital with “false hope” of cure because this information had not been conveyed. Key barriers to ensuring a smooth transition to palliative care included the difficulty of “standing back” in an acute hospital situation, professional hierarchies that limited the ability of junior medical and nursing staff to input into decisions on care, and poor communication.
Conclusion Significant barriers to implementing a policy of structured transitions to palliative care in acute hospitals were identified by health professionals in both primary and secondary care. These need to be addressed if current UK policy on management of palliative care in acute hospitals is to be established.
Providing appropriate palliative care for older people is a major task for health care systems worldwide, and up to now it has also been one of the most neglected. Focusing on the German health care system, we sought to explore the attitudes of health professionals regarding their understanding of palliative care for older patients and its implementation.
In a qualitative study design, focus groups were established consisting of general practitioners, geriatricians, palliative care physicians, palliative care nurses and general nurses (a total of 29 participants). The group discussions were recorded, transcribed, coded and analysed using the methodological approach of Qualitative Description.
Deficiencies in teamwork and conflicting role definitions between doctors and nurses and between family practitioners and medical specialists were found to be central problems affecting the provision of appropriate palliative care for older people. It was emphasized that there are great advantages to family doctors playing a leading role, as they usually have the longest contacts to the patients. However, the professional qualifications of family doctors were to some extent criticized. The general practitioners for their part criticized the increasing specialization on the field of palliative care. All groups complained that the German compensation system gives insufficient consideration to the time-consuming care of older patients, and about excessive bureaucracy.
General practitioners are the central health professionals in the delivery of palliative care for older people. They should however be encouraged to involve specialized services such as palliative care teams where necessary. With the German health care reform of 2007, a legal framework has been created that allows for this. As far as its realization is concerned, it must be ensured that the spotlight remains on the needs of the patients and not on policy conflicts and rivalries between health care professionals. Older people might particularly benefit if "talking" medicine and time-consuming care were properly catered for, financially and organizationally, in the health care system.
The need for intrathecal infusion in a palliative care setting is infrequent. Despite established efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness, this is considered an ‘extraordinary measure’ in Canada. Patients requiring this approach are not typical palliative care patients, having shorter and more uncertain life expectancies.
The present study is a qualitative exploration of the impact of intrathecal pump implantation on cancer patients, and also the impact of the intervention on the staff caring for those patients.
Palliative care unit patients who received an implanted intrathecal pump or dome catheter for intractable cancer pain participated in multiple semistructured interviews. Doctors and nurses caring for each patient were also interviewed. Interviews were recorded and analyzed for themes. The study terminated when saturation was reached.
Six patients participated, with up to three interviews each. Twenty-four staff interviews took place. Patients’ hopes and expectations were not always fully met, but the infusions had a profound positive effect on quality of life. Patients expressed anxiety about dependence on the device, and also on a few highly skilled individuals. Staff interviews revealed a significant impact on the ‘culture’ of the palliative care unit. Clear communication of the rationale for infusion was very important, as was regular education about infusion management.
Implanted intrathecal infusion devices are a necessary part of a tertiary level cancer pain management service for the unfortunate minority with intractable pain. Practical recommendations for care are made for palliative care programs contemplating offering intrathecal infusions.
Anesthesia; Canada; Cancer; Intrathecal; Pain; Palliative care
To understand oncology clinicians’ perspectives about the care of advanced cancer patients following the completion of the ENABLE II (Educate, Nurture, Advise, Before Life Ends) randomized clinical trial (RCT) of a concurrent oncology palliative care model.
Qualitative interview study of 35 oncology clinicians about their approach to patients with advanced cancer and the effect of the ENABLE II RCT.
Oncologists believed that integrating palliative care at the time of an advanced cancer diagnosis enhanced patient care and complemented their practice. Self-assessment of their practice with advanced cancer patients comprised four themes: 1) treating the whole patient, 2) focusing on quality versus quantity of life, 3) “some patients just want to fight”, and 4) helping with transitions; timing is everything. Five themes comprised oncologists’ views on the complementary role of palliative care: 1) “refer early and often”, 2) referral challenges: “Palliative” equals hospice; “Heme patients are different”, 3) palliative care as consultants or co-managers, 4) palliative care “shares the load”, and 5) ENABLE II facilitated palliative care integration.
Oncologists described the RCT as holistic and complementary, and as a significant factor in adopting concurrent care as a standard of care.
oncologist; oncology nurse practitioner; concurrent oncology palliative care; qualitative research; health care delivery
Patients with incurable, progressive disease receiving palliative care in sub-Saharan Africa experience high levels of spiritual distress with a detrimental impact on their quality of life. Locally validated measurement tools are needed to identify patients’ spiritual needs and evaluate and improve spiritual care, but up to now such tools have been lacking in Africa. The African Palliative Care Association (APCA) African Palliative Outcome Scale (POS) contains two items relating to peace and life worthwhile. We aimed to determine the content and construct validity of these items as measures of spiritual wellbeing in African palliative care populations.
The study was conducted at five palliative care services, four in South Africa and one in Uganda. The mixed-methods study design involved: (1) cognitive interviews with 72 patients, analysed thematically to explore the items’ content validity, and (2) quantitative data collection (n = 285 patients) using the POS and the Spirit 8 to assess construct validity.
(1) Peace was interpreted according to the themes ‘perception of self and world’, ‘relationship to others’, ‘spiritual beliefs’ and ‘health and healthcare’. Life worthwhile was interpreted in relation to ‘perception of self and world’, ‘relationship to others’ and ‘identity’. (2) Conceptual convergence and divergence were also evident in the quantitative data: there was moderate correlation between peace and Spirit 8 spiritual well-being (r = 0.46), but little correlation between life worthwhile and Spirit 8 spiritual well-being (r = 0.18) (both p < 0.001). Correlations with Spirit 8 items were weak to moderate.
Findings demonstrate the utility of POS items peace and life worthwhile as distinct but related measures of spiritual well-being in African palliative care. Peace and life worthwhile are brief and simple enough to be integrated into routine practice and can be used to measure this important but neglected outcome in this population.
Outcome measurement; Spiritual well-being; Content validity; Construct validity; Sub-Saharan Africa; Palliative care
Palliative Care is an approach that improves quality of life for patients and their families facing the problems associated with incurable life-threatening illness. In many countries, due to the rapidly ageing population, increasingly more people are suffering from serious chronic disease towards the end of life, making further development in palliative care a major public health challenge. The aim of this study was to develop the first targets for public health initiatives to improve palliative care in Germany.
Based on the findings from pilot studies (qualitative interviews and surveys with different stakeholders in the health care system), we conducted a modified Delphi study with two rounds of questionnaires with experts in public health and palliative care. In the first round, the experts commented on the findings from the pilot studies. The answers were evaluated descriptively and with qualitative content analysis, resulting in the formulation of 25 targets. These were presented to the experts in the second Delphi round to assess each of them separately with regard to its importance and current implementation (7-point answer scales) and in relation to the other targets (defining the five most important of the 25 targets).
Six most relevant targets for public health initiatives to improve palliative care in Germany were worked out: Supporting palliative care as a basic attitude for the care of people in the last phase of life; coordinating healthcare for people in the last phase of life; establishing cooperation among health professions and disciplines; establishing education in palliative care for all professional groups with contact to people in the last phase of life; reviewing the evidence of palliative care measures; offering support to family members who are caring for someone in the last phase of life.
To systematically develop palliative care, it makes sense to define fields of action with individual targets. For Germany, it can be recommended to give priority to the targets that were highlighted as the most relevant in this study. The next step will be to develop, implement and evaluate tangible measures to achieve these targets.
The care of palliative patients challenges the health care system in both quantity and quality. Especially the role of primary care givers needs to be strengthened to provide them with the knowledge and the confidence of applying an appropriate end-of-life care to palliative patients. To improve health care services for palliative patients in primary care, interested physicians in and around Heidelberg, Germany, are enabled to participate in the community-based program 'Palliative Medical Initiative North Baden (PAMINO)' to improve their knowledge in dealing with palliative patients. The impact of this program on patients' health and quality of life remains to be evaluated.
The evaluation of PAMINO is a non-randomized, controlled study. Out of the group of primary care physicians who took part in the PAMINO program, a sample of 45 physicians and their palliative patients will be compared to a sample of palliative patients of 45 physicians who did not take part in the program. Every four weeks for 6 months or until death, patients, physicians, and the patients' family caregivers in both groups answer questions to therapy strategies, quality of life (QLQ-C15-PAL, POS), pain (VAS), and burden for family caregivers (BSFC). The inclusion of physicians and patients in the study starts in March 2007.
Although participating physicians value the increase in knowledge they receive from PAMINO, the effects on patients remain unclear. If the evaluation reveals a clear benefit for patients' quality of life, a larger-scale implementation of the program is considered.
Trial registration: The study was registered at ‘current controlled trials (CCT)’, registration number: ISRCTN78021852.
Spouses' involvement in palliative care is often a prerequisite for home death, but it is unclear whether active involvement of the spouse, e.g. administering and being in charge of oral or subcutaneous medication or taking care of the patient's personal hygiene, could be harmful or have negative effects on the spouse's experience of the palliative course of disease. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of bereaved spouses' active involvement in medical and physical care on their experience of the palliative course of disease.
The study was a qualitative, descriptive study based on semi-structured individual interviews with seven bereaved spouses.
Four main categories were found: Degree of involvement, Positive and Negative impact and Prerequisites. The prerequisites found for a positive outcome were Safety (24-hour back-up), Confidence (Professionals' confidence in the spouses' abilities) and Dialog (Spouses' influence on decision-making and being asked).
The results from this study identified important issues whenever spouses take an active part in medical treatment and physical care of critically ill patients in palliative care. The results question the previous research that active involvement of family care givers could be harmful and add preconditions to a positive outcome. More research into these preconditions is needed.
In North-Rhine Westphalia (Germany) a pilot project for an extensive service provision of palliative care for children and adolescents has been implemented. Accompanying research was undertaken with the aim to assess the status quo of service delivery at the outset of the project and to evaluate the effects of the pilot project. As part of the research, barriers and needs with respect to paediatric palliative home care in the target region were explored.
Semi-structured interviews with 24 experts in the field of paediatrics, palliative and hospice care have been conducted and were analysed by qualitative content analysis.
Four main categories emerged from the interviews: (1) specific challenges and demands in palliative care for children and adolescents, (2) lack of clear legal and financial regulations, (3) gaps in the existing care delivery, and (4) access to services. Generally the interviews reflected the observation that the whole field is currently expanding and that certain deficits are temporary barriers that will be resolvable in the medium-term perspective.
Predominant barriers were seen in the lack of clear legal and financial regulations which take into account the specific challenges of palliative care in children and adolescents, as well as in a shortcoming of specialist services for a local based care provision throughout the federal country.
To prospectively compare outcomes and processes of hospital-based early palliative care with standard care in surgical oncology patients (N = 152).
A randomized, mixed methods, longitudinal study evaluated the effectiveness of a hospital-based Pain and Palliative Care Service (PPCS). Interviews were conducted presurgically and at follow-up visits up to 1 year. Primary outcome measures included the Gracely Pain Intensity and Unpleasantness Scales and the Symptom Distress Scale. Qualitative interviews assessed social support, satisfaction with care, and communication with providers. Survival analysis methods explored factors related to treatment crossover and study discontinuation. Models for repeated measures within subjects over time explored treatment and covariate effects on patient-reported pain and symptom distress.
None of the estimated differences achieved statistical significance; however, for those who remained on study for 12 months, the PPCS group performed better than their standard of care counterparts. Patients identified consistent communication, emotional support, and pain and symptom management as positive contributions delivered by the PPCS.
It is unclear whether lower pain perceptions despite greater symptom distress were clinically meaningful; however, when coupled with the patients’ perceptions of their increased resources and alternatives for pain control, one begins to see the value of an integrated PPCS.
Cancer malignancies; Palliative care; Pain management; Symptom management; Mixed methods
Effective communication is considered to be essential for the delivery of high-quality care. Communication in palliative care may be particularly difficult, and there is still no accepted set of communication skills for GPs in providing palliative care.
To obtain detailed information on facilitators and barriers for GP–patient communication in palliative care, with the aim to develop training programmes that enable GPs to improve their palliative care communication skills.
Design of study
Qualitative study with focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires.
GPs with patients receiving palliative care at home, and end-of-life consultants in the Netherlands.
GP (n = 20) focus groups discussing facilitators and barriers, palliative care patient (n = 6) interviews regarding facilitators, and end-of-life consultant (n = 22) questionnaires concerning barriers.
Facilitators reported by both GPs and patients were accessibility, taking time, commitment, and listening carefully. GPs emphasise respect, while patients want GPs to behave in a friendly way, and to take the initiative to discuss end-of-life issues. Barriers reported by both GPs and end-of-life consultants were: difficulty in dealing with former doctors' delay and strong demands from patients' relatives. GPs report difficulty in dealing with strong emotions and troublesome doctor–patient relationships, while consultants report insufficient clarification of patients' problems, promises that could not be kept, helplessness, too close involvement, and insufficient anticipation of various scenarios.
The study findings suggest that the quality of GP–patient communication in palliative care in the Netherlands can be improved. It is recommended that specific communication training programmes for GPs should be developed and evaluated.
communication; palliative care; physicians, family; physician–patient relationship; qualitative research
Although meta-analyses have demonstrated that physical activity can positively impact quality of life outcomes in early stage cancer patients, it is not yet known whether these benefits can be extended to patients with advanced cancer. In a previous pilot survey of patients with advanced cancer with a median survival of 104 days, participants felt willing and able to participate in a physical activity intervention, and reported a strong preference for walking and home-based programming. Here, we report on the initial development and feasibility of a home-based functional walking program in patients with advanced cancer receiving palliative care.
Nine adult patients were recruited from outpatient palliative care clinics and palliative home care. A pilot intervention trial was conducted over a 6-week period. The McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire (MQOL), Late Life Function and Disability Instrument (LLFDI), Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS), Seniors Fitness Test, four-test balance scale, and grip strength, were performed pre- and post-intervention. Participants wore activPAL™ accelerometers to monitor ambulatory activity levels.
Of the nine recruited participants, three participants dropped out prior to baseline testing due to hospital admission and feeling overwhelmed, and three participants dropped out during the intervention due to severe symptoms. Only three participants completed the intervention program, pre- and post-intervention assessments: two reported improvements in total MQOL scores, yet all three shared an overall trend towards worsening symptom and total fatigue scores post-intervention. Two participants passed away within 90 days of completing the intervention.
This case series demonstrates the challenges of a physical activity intervention in patients with advanced cancer receiving palliative care. Further feasibility research is required in this patient population.
This study is registered under ClinicalTrials.gov as NCT00438620.
Physical activity; Palliative care; Cancer; Quality of life; Walking
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 care for people with dementia is often sub-optimal. This is partly because of the challenging nature of dementia itself, and partly because of system failings that are particularly salient in primary care and community services. There is a need to systematize palliative care for people with dementia, to clarify where changes in practice could be made.
To develop a model of palliative care for people with dementia that captures commonalities and differences across Europe, a technology development approach was adopted, using mixed methods including 1) critical synthesis of the research literature and policy documents, 2) interviews with national experts in policy, service organisation, service delivery, patient and carer interests, and research in palliative care, and 3) nominal groups of researchers tasked with synthesising data and modelling palliative care.
A generic model of palliative care, into which quality indicators can be embedded. The proposed model includes features deemed important for the systematisation of palliative care for people with dementia. These are: the division of labour amongst practitioners of different disciplines; the structure and function of care planning; the management of rising risk and increasing complexity; boundaries between disease-modifying treatment and palliative care and between palliative and end-of-life care; and the process of bereavement.
The co-design approach to developing a generic model of palliative care for people with dementia has placed the person needing palliative care within a landscape of services and professional disciplines. This model will be explored further in the intervention phase of the IMPACT project.
To identify doctors' perceptions of the need for palliative care for heart failure and barriers to change.
Qualitative study with focus groups.
North west England.
General practitioners and consultants in cardiology, geriatrics, palliative care, and general medicine.
Doctors supported the development of palliative care for patients with heart failure with the general practitioner as a central figure. They were reluctant to endorse expansion of specialist palliative care services. Barriers to developing approaches to palliative care in heart failure related to three main areas: the organisation of health care, the unpredictable course of heart failure, and the doctors' understanding of roles. The health system was thought to work against provision of holistic care, exacerbated by issues of professional rivalry and control. The priorities identified for the future were developing the role of the nurse, better community support for primary care, and enhanced communication between all the health professionals involved in the care of patients with heart failure.
Greater consideration should be given to the care of patients dying with heart failure, clarifying the roles of doctors and nurses in different specialties, and reshaping the services provided for them. Many of the organisational and professional issues are not peculiar to patients dying with heart failure, and addressing such concerns as the lack of coordination and continuity in medical care would benefit all patients.
What is already known on this topicPatients with heart failure have unmet needs for health care at the end of lifeSpecialist palliative care services see few patients with heart failureThe national service framework for coronary heart disease endorses the provision of palliative care for heart failureLittle evidence exists on how this care should be provided, and doctors' views are not knownWhat this study addsBarriers to adopting a palliative care approach in heart failure care relate to the current organisation of health services, the difficulties of prognostication, and doctors' understanding of roles and responsibilitiesDoctors believe that the general practitioner should be the central figure in palliative care for heart failure, supported by specialistsDoctors' future priorities are developing the role of nurses, increasing essential community services, such as district nursing, and improving communication with colleagues
Palliative care education is often lacking in graduate medical education curricula. Studies show that many physicians are uncomfortable discussing end-of-life issues with patients and providing palliative care to dying patients and their families. We used a case-based approach to improve resident confidence in delivering bad news, discussing poor prognoses, explaining the dying process, and providing palliative care in the intensive care unit.
The medical intensive care unit (MICU) curriculum involved a 3-pronged approach, including role modeling by the attending physician and palliative care team, tutorials, and a case-based debriefing at the end of each month-long rotation. Case-based debriefing consisted of discussions by the house officers of cases they encountered during the MICU rotation. Sessions were moderated by a staff physician trained in palliative care and a palliative care advanced practice nurse. Open-ended questions stimulated the residents' reflection on their decisions and guided the discussion pertinent to palliative care.
Using a survey instrument with a 4-point Likert scale, house officers assessed themselves before and after the rotation, rating their confidence in 9 areas of palliative care. Paired t tests were used to compare the cohort's scores before and after the rotation.
A total of 214 house officers completed prerotation and postrotation surveys from April 2007 to September 2011. After completing the course, house officers demonstrated statistically significant improvement in confidence with conducting family conferences (mean 2.6 before vs 3.1 after [P<0.001]), delivering bad news (mean 3.1 before vs 3.5 after [P<0.001]), discussing do not resuscitate orders (3.1 before vs 3.6 after [P<0.001]), discussing comfort care (mean 2.8 before vs 3.4 after [P<0.001]), discussing withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment (mean 2.6 before vs 3.2 after [P<0.001]), managing pain (mean 3.0 before vs 3.5 after [P<0.001]), managing terminal symptoms (mean 2.8 before vs 3.4 after [P<0.001]), assessing decision-making capacity (mean 2.8 before vs 3.4 after [P<0.001]), and discussing advance directives (mean 2.8 before vs 3.4 after [P<0.001]).
Using a multidisciplinary team to teach a structured curriculum that includes a case-based debriefing improves house officer confidence in discussing end-of-life care and providing palliative care to patients in the intensive care setting.
Graduate medical education; intensive care unit; palliative care
Little is known about how GPs determine whether and when patients need palliative care. Little research has been done regarding the assumption underpinning Lynn and Adamson’s model that palliative care may start early in the course of the disease. This study was conducted to explore how GPs identify a need for palliative care in patients.
A qualitative interview study was performed among 20 GPs in the Netherlands.
GPs reported that a combination of several signals, often subtle and not explicit, made them identify a need for palliative care: signals from patients (increasing care dependency and not recuperating after intercurrent diseases) and signals from relatives or reports from medical specialists. GPs reported differences in how they identified a need for palliative care in cancer patients versus those with other diseases. In cancer patients, the need for palliative care was often relatively clear because of a relatively strict demarcation between the curative and palliative phase. However, in patients with e.g. COPD or in the very old, GPs' awareness of palliative care needs often arises gradually, relatively late in the disease trajectory.
GPs consider the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness as a key point in the disease trajectory. However, this does not automatically mean that a patient needs palliative care at that point.
GPs recognize a need for palliative care on the basis of various signals. They do not support the idea underlying Lynn and Adamson’s model that palliative care always starts early in the course of the disease.
General practice; Primary care; Palliative care; Qualitative research; End-of-life care