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
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
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
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
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
OBJECTIVE: To examine factors that influence family physicians' decisions to practise palliative care. DESIGN: Qualitative method of in-depth interviews. SETTING: Southwestern Ontario. PARTICIPANTS: Family physicians who practise palliative care on a full-time basis, who practise on a part-time basis, or who have retired from active involvement in palliative care. METHOD: Eleven in-depth interviews were conducted to explore factors that influence family physicians' decisions to practise palliative care and factors that sustain their interest in palliative care. All interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. The analysis strategy used a phenomenological approach and occurred concurrently rather than sequentially. All interview transcriptions were read independently by the researchers, who then compared and combined their analyses. Final analysis involved examining all interviews collectively, thus permitting relationships between and among central themes to emerge. MAIN OUTCOME FINDINGS: The overriding theme was a common philosophy of palliative care focusing on acceptance of death, whole person care, compassion, communication, and teamwork. Participants' philosophies were shaped by their education and by professional and personal experiences. In addition, participants articulated personal and systemic factors currently affecting their practice of palliative care. CONCLUSIONS: Participants observed that primary care physicians should be responsible for their patients' palliative care within the context of interdisciplinary teams. For medical students to be knowledgeable and sensitive to the needs of dying patients, palliative care should be given higher priority in the curriculum. Finally, participants argued compellingly for transferring the philosophy of palliative care to the overall practice of medicine.
Many patients are transferred from home to hospital during the final phase of life and the majority die in hospital. The aim of the study is to explore hospital referrals of palliative care patients for whom an out-of-hours general practitioner was called.
A retrospective descriptive chart study was conducted covering a one-year period (1/Nov/2005 to 1/Nov/2006) in all eight out-of-hours GP co-operatives in the Amsterdam region (Netherlands). All symptoms, sociodemographic and medical characteristics were recorded in 529 charts for palliative care patients. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to identify the variables associated with hospital referrals at the end of life.
In all, 13% of all palliative care patients for whom an out-of-hours general practitioner was called were referred to hospital. Palliative care patients with cancer (OR 5,1), cardiovascular problems (OR 8,3), digestive problems (OR 2,5) and endocrine, metabolic and nutritional (EMN) problems (OR 2,5) had a significantly higher chance of being referred. Patients receiving professional nursing care (OR 0,2) and patients for whom their own general practitioner had transferred information to the out-of-hours cooperative (OR 0,4) had a significantly lower chance of hospital referral. The most frequent reasons for hospital referral, as noted by the out-of-hours general practitioner, were digestive (30%), EMN (19%) and respiratory (17%) problems.
Whilst acknowledging that an out-of-hours hospital referral can be the most desirable option in some situations, this study provides suggestions for avoiding undesirable hospital referrals by out-of-hours general practitioners at the end of life. These include anticipating digestive, EMN, respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms in palliative care patients.
General Practice; Primary Care; Palliative Care; Out of Hours; Hospital Referral; Cancer; Symptoms
Based on positive findings from a randomized controlled trial, Kaiser Permanente's national executive leadership group set an expectation that all Kaiser Permanente and partner hospitals would implement a consultative model of interdisciplinary, inpatient-based palliative care (IPC). Within one year, the number of IPC consultations program-wide increased almost tenfold from baseline, and the number of teams nearly doubled. We report here results from a qualitative evaluation of the IPC initiative after a year of implementation; our purpose was to understand factors supporting or impeding the rapid and consistent spread of a complex program.
Quality improvement study using a case study design and qualitative analysis of in-depth semi-structured interviews with 36 national, regional, and local leaders.
Compelling evidence of impacts on patient satisfaction and quality of care generated 'pull' among adopters, expressed as a remarkably high degree of conviction about the value of the model. Broad leadership agreement gave rise to sponsorship and support that permeated the organization. A robust social network promoted knowledge exchange and built on an existing network with a strong interest in palliative care. Resource constraints, pre-existing programs of a different model, and ambiguous accountability for implementation impeded spread.
A complex, hospital-based, interdisciplinary intervention in a large health care organization spread rapidly due to a synergy between organizational 'push' strategies and grassroots-level pull. The combination of push and pull may be especially important when the organizational context or the practice to be spread is complex.
Objective To find out what inpatients with advanced cancer who are receiving palliative care think about the effect of thromoprophylaxis on overall quality of life.
Design Qualitative study using audiotaping of semistructured interviews.
Setting Regional cancer centre in Wales.
Participants 28 inpatients with advanced metastatic cancer receiving palliative care and low molecular weight heparin.
Main outcome measures Recurring themes on the effect of thromboprophylaxis on overall quality of life.
Results Major emerging themes showed that patients knew about the risks of venous thromboembolism and the purpose of treatment with heparin. Media coverage had raised awareness about venous thromboembolism, and many had previous experience of thromboprophylaxis. All found low molecular weight heparin an acceptable intervention, and many said that it improved their quality of life by giving them a feeling of safety and reassurance. Antiembolic stockings were considered uncomfortable and had a negative impact on quality of life. Patients were concerned that because they had advanced disease they might not be eligible for thromboprophylaxis.
Conclusion Low molecular weight heparin is acceptable to inpatients with advanced cancer receiving palliative care and has a positive impact on overall quality of life. Antiembolic stockings are an unacceptable intervention in this patient group. Guidelines on thromboprophylaxis are urgently needed for palliative care inpatient units and hospices.
There is a dearth of well-designed clinical research focusing on palliative care in cancer patients, especially those who are near the end of life. Reasons for this include ethical dilemmas in conducting such trials, communication barriers between specialties, and unclear standards for best care practices. To ensure that patients with incurable illnesses are offered the best available care, it is essential to develop and disseminate research methodologies well suited to this population. Given the multidimensional and culture-dependent nature of the end-of-life experience, it is necessary to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to developing research methods. As a means of initiating the process of palliative clinical research methodology development, malignant bowel obstruction (MBO) was used as a model to develop a research protocol. Although many treatment options for MBO have been proposed, existing literature offers little guidance with regard to algorithms for optimal management. To this end, an interdisciplinary summit of international leaders in quality-of-life research, ethno-cultural variability, palliative medicine, surgical oncology, gastroenterology, major consortium research, medical ethics, and patient advocacy/cancer survivors was convened in Pasadena, California, on November 12-13, 2004. Participants also represented the broad ethnic and racial perspectives required to develop culturally sensitive research methods. Consensus on methodological approaches was attained through vigorous debate. Using the conference-developed MBO model to implement trials will advance palliative care research.
Palliative care research; malignant bowel obstruction; quality of life; end of life care
Palliative care has been proposed for progressive non-cancer conditions but there have been few evaluations of service developments. We analysed recruitment, compliance and follow-up data of a fast track (or wait list control) randomised controlled trial of a new palliative care service – a design not previously used to assess palliative care.
An innovative palliative care service (comprising a consultant in palliative medicine, a clinical nurse specialist, an administrator and a psychosocial worker) was delivered to people severely affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), and their carers, in southeast London. Our design followed the MRC Framework for the Evaluation of Complex Interventions. In phase II we conducted randomised controlled trial, of immediate referral to the service (fast-track) versus a 12-week wait (standard best practice). Main outcome measures were: compliance (the extent the trial protocol was adhered to), recruitment (target 50 patients), attrition and missing data rates; trial outcomes were Palliative Care Outcome Scale and MS Impact Scale.
69 patients were referred, 52 entered the trial (26 randomised to each arm), 5 refused consent and 12 were excluded from the trial for other reasons, usually illness or urgent needs, achieving our target numbers. 25/26 fast track and 21/26 standard best practice patients completed the trial, resulting in 217/225 (96%) of possible interviews completed, 87% of which took place in the patient's home. Main reasons for failure to interview and/or attrition were death or illness. There were three deaths in the standard best practice group and one in the fast-track group during the trial. At baseline there were no differences between groups. Missing data for individual questionnaire items were small (median 0, mean 1–5 items out of 56+ items per interview), not associated with any patient or carer characteristics or with individual questionnaires, but were associated with interviewer.
This is the first time a fast track (or wait list) randomised trial has been reported in palliative care. We found it achieved good recruitment and is a feasible method to evaluate palliative care services when patients are expected to live longer than 3–6 months. Home interviews are needed for a trial of this kind; interviewers need careful recruitment, training and supervision; and there should be careful separation from the clinical service of the control patients to prevent accidental contamination.
Clinical Trials.Gov NCT00364963