BACKGROUND: Spirituality is particularly important for patients suffering from life-threatening illness. Despite research showing the benefits of spiritual assessment and care for terminally ill patients, their spiritual needs are rarely addressed in clinical practice. This study examined the factor structure and reliability of the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual (FACIT-Sp) in patients with advanced cancer. It also examined the clinical meaning and reference intervals of FACIT-Sp scores in cancer patients subgroups through a literature review.
METHODS: A forward-backward translation procedure was adopted to develop the Italian version of the FACIT-Sp, which was administered to 150 terminally ill cancer patients. Exploratory factor analysis was used for construct validity, while Cronbach's a was used to assess the reliability of the scale.
RESULTS: This study replicates previous findings indicating that the FACIT-Sp distinguish well between features of meaning, peace, and faith. In addition, the internal consistency of the FACIT-Sp was acceptable. The literature review also showed that terminal cancer patients have the lowest scores on the Faith and Meaning subscales, whereas cancer survivors have the highest scores on Faith.
CONCLUSIONS: The Italian version of the FACIT-Sp has good construct validity and acceptable reliability. Therefore, it can be used as a tool to assess spiritual well-being in Italian terminally ill cancer patients. This study provides reference intervals of FACIT-Sp scores in newly diagnosed cancer patients, cancer survivors, and terminally ill cancer patients and further highlights the clinical meaning of such detailed assessment.
PURPOSE: Online programs may help to engage patients in advance care planning in outpatient settings. We sought to implement an online advance care planning program, PREPARE (Prepare for Your Care; http://www.prepareforyourcare.org), at home and evaluate the changes in advance care planning engagement among patients attending outpatient clinics.
METHODS: We undertook a prospective before-and-after study in 15 primary care clinics and 2 outpatient cancer centers in Canada. Patients were aged 50 years or older (primary care) or 18 years or older (cancer care) and free of cognitive impairment. They used the PREPARE website over 6 weeks, with reminders sent at 2 or 4 weeks. We used the 55-item Advance Care Planning Engagement Survey, which measures behavior change processes (knowledge, contemplation, self-efficacy, readiness) on 5-point scales and actions relating to substitute decision makers, quality of life, flexibility for the decision maker, and asking doctors questions on an overall scale from 0 to 21; higher scores indicate greater engagement.
RESULTS: In total, 315 patients were screened and 172 enrolled, of whom 75% completed the study (mean age = 65.6 years, 51% female, 35% had cancer). The mean behavior change process score was 2.9 (SD 0.8) at baseline and 3.5 (SD 0.8) at follow-up (mean change = 0.6; 95% CI, 0.49-0.73); the mean action measure score was 4.0 (SD 4.9) at baseline and 5.2 (SD 5.4) at follow-up (mean change = 1.2; 95% CI, 0.54-1.77). The effect size was moderate (0.75) for the former and small (0.23) for the latter. Findings were similar in both primary care and cancer care populations.
CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of the online PREPARE program in primary care and cancer care clinics increased advance care planning engagement among patients.
INTRODUCTION: The Patient Dignity Question (PDQ) is a clinical tool developed with the aim of reinforcing the sense of personhood and dignity, enabling health care providers (HCPs) to see patients as people and not solely based on their illness.
OBJECTIVE: To study the acceptability and feasibility of the Portuguese version of the PDQ (PDQ-PT) in a sample of palliative care patients cared for in primary care (PC).
METHOD: A cross-sectional study using 20 palliative patients cared for in a PC unit. A post-PDQ satisfaction questionnaire was developed.
RESULTS: Twenty participants were included, 75% were male; average age was 70 years old. Patients found the summary accurate, precise, and complete; all said that they would recommend the PDQ to others and want a copy of the summary placed on their family physician's medical chart. They felt the summary heightened their sense of dignity, considered it important that HCPs have access to the summary and indicated that this information could affect the way HCPs see and care for them. The PDQ-PT's took 7 min on average to answer, and 10 min to complete the summary.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The PDQ-PT is well accepted and feasible to use with palliative patients in the context of PC and seems to be a promising tool to be implemented. Future trials are now warranted.
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: A patient-directed, online program (PREPARE for Your Care [PREPARE]; prepareforyourcare.org) has been shown to increase advance care planning (ACP) documentation. However, the mechanisms underlying PREPARE are unknown. Our objectives were to compare the efficacy of PREPARE plus an easy-to-read advance directive (AD) vs an AD alone to increase active patient participation in ACP discussions during clinic visits and to examine effects of active patient participation on ACP documentation.
DESIGN: Audio recordings of postintervention primary care visits from two randomized trials (2013-2016).
SETTING: Seven primary care clinics at a veterans affair and safety-net hospital in San Francisco, CA.
PARTICIPANTS: English- and Spanis-speaking adults, aged 55 years and older, with two or more chronic/serious conditions.
INTERVENTION: PREPARE plus an easy-to-read AD or an AD alone.
MEASUREMENTS: The primary outcome was the number of active patient participation utterances about ACP (eg, asking questions, stating preferences) measured by the validated Active Patient Participation Coding Scheme. We examined differences in utterances by study arm using mixed effects negative binomial models and utterances as a mediator of PREPARE's effect on documentation using adjusted logistic regression. Models were adjusted for health literacy, prior care planning, and clinician.
RESULTS: Among 393 participants, the mean (SD) age was 66 (8.1) years, 120 (30.5%) had limited health literacy, and 99 (25.2%) were Spanish speaking. PREPARE plus the AD resulted in 41% more active patient participation in ACP discussions compared with the AD alone (mean [SD] = 10.1 [16.8] vs 6.6 [13.4] utterances; incidence rate ratio = 1.41; 95% confidence interval = 1.00-1.98). For every additional utterance, participants had 15% higher odds of ACP documentation, and active patient participation accounted for 16% of PREPARE's effect on documentation.
CONCLUSIONS: The PREPARE program and easy-to-read AD empowered patients to actively participate in ACP discussions during clinical visits more than the AD alone. Increased activation was associated with increased ACP documentation. Therefore, PREPARE may mitigate barriers to ACP among English- and Spanish-speaking older adults.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov identifiers: “Improving Advance Care Planning by Preparing Diverse Seniors for Decision Making (PREPARE)” NCT01990235 and “Preparing Spanish-Speaking Older Adults for Advance Care Planning and Medical Decision Making (PREPARE)” NCT02072941.
BACKGROUND: Predicting death in a cohort of clinically diverse, multi-condition hospitalized patients is difficult. This frequently hinders timely serious illness care conversations. Prognostic models that can determine 6-month death risk at the time of hospital admission can improve access to serious illness care conversations.
OBJECTIVE: The objective is to determine if the demographic, vital sign, and laboratory data from the first 48 h of a hospitalization can be used to accurately quantify 6-month mortality risk.
DESIGN: This is a retrospective study using electronic medical record data linked with the state death registry.
PARTICIPANTS: Participants were 158,323 hospitalized patients within a 6-hospital network over a 6-year period.
MAIN MEASURES: Main measures are the following: the first set of vital signs, complete blood count, basic and complete metabolic panel, serum lactate, pro-BNP, troponin-I, INR, aPTT, demographic information, and associated ICD codes. The outcome of interest was death within 6 months.
KEY RESULTS: Model performance was measured on the validation dataset. A random forest model-mini serious illness algorithm-used 8 variables from the initial 48 h of hospitalization and predicted death within 6 months with an AUC of 0.92 (0.91-0.93). Red cell distribution width was the most important prognostic variable. min-SIA (mini serious illness algorithm) was very well calibrated and estimated the probability of death to within 10% of the actual value. The discriminative ability of the min-SIA was significantly better than historical estimates of clinician performance.
CONCLUSION: min-SIA algorithm can identify patients at high risk of 6-month mortality at the time of hospital admission. It can be used to improved access to timely, serious illness care conversations in high-risk patients.
Background: The “END-of-Life ScorING-System” (ENDING-S) was previously developed to identify patients at high-risk of dying in the ICU and to facilitate a practical integration between palliative and intensive care. The aim of this study is to prospectively validate ENDING-S in a cohort of long-term critical care patients.
Materials and methods: Adult long-term ICU patients (with a length-of-stay> 4 days) were considered for this prospective multicenter observational study. ENDING-S and SOFA score were calculated daily and evaluated against the patient’s ICU outcome. The predictive properties were evaluated through a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis.
Results: Two hundred twenty patients were enrolled for this study. Among these, 21.46% died during the ICU stay. ENDING-S correctly predicted the ICU outcome in 71.4% of patients. Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values associated with the previously identified ENDING-S cut-off of 11.5 were 68.1, 72.3, 60 and 89.3%, respectively. ROC-AUC for outcome prediction was 0.79 for ENDING-S and 0.88 for SOFA in this cohort.
Conclusions: ENDING-S, while not as accurately as in the pilot study, demonstrated acceptable discrimination properties in identifying long-term ICU patients at very high-risk of dying. ENDING-S may be a useful tool aimed at facilitating a practical integration between palliative, end-of-life and intensive care.
Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT02875912; First registration August 4, 2016.
Background: Despite improvements in diagnostics and therapy, the majority of lung tumours are diagnosed at advanced stage IV with a poor prognosis. Due to the nature of an incurable disease, patients need to engage in shared decision making on advance care planning. To implement this in clinical practice, effective communication between patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals is essential. The Heidelberg Milestones Communication Approach (MCA) is delivered by a specifically trained interprofessional tandem and consists of four milestone conversations (MCs) at pivotal times in the disease trajectory. MC 1 (Diagnosis): i.e. prognosis; MC 2 (Stable disease): i.e. prognostic awareness; MC 3 (Progression): i.e. reassessment; MC 4 (Best supportive care): i.e. end of treatment. In between MCs, follow-up calls are carried out to sustain communication. This study aimed to assess to what extent the MCA was implemented as planned and consolidated in specialized oncology practice.
Methods: A prospective observational process evaluation study was conducted, which focused on the implementation fidelity of the MCA. All MCs during two assessment periods were included. We analysed all written records of the conversations, which are part of the routine documentation during MCs and follow-up calls. Adherence to key aspects of the manual was documented on structured checklists at the beginning of the implementation of the MCA and after 6 months. The analysis was descriptive. Differences between the two assessment periods are analysed with chi-square tests.
Results: A total of 133 MCs and 54 follow-up-calls (t1) and of 172 MCs and 92 follow-up calls (t2) were analysed. MC 2 were the most frequently completed conversations (n = 51 and n = 47). Advance care planning was discussed in 26 and 13% of MC 2 in the respective assessment periods; in 31 and 47% of MC 2, prognostic awareness was recorded. The most frequently documented topic in the follow-up calls was the physical condition in patients (82 and 83%).
Conclusion: The implementation of a trajectory-specific communication concept was largely successful. Additional studies are needed to understand how fidelity could be further improved.
Trial registration: DRKS00013469 / Date of registration: 22.12.2017.
PURPOSE: Several validated outcome measures, among them the Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI), are valid for measuring caregiver burden in advanced cancer and dementia. However, they have not been validated for a wider palliative care (PC) setting with non-cancer disease. The purpose was to validate ZBI-1 (ultra-short version and proxy rating) and ZBI-7 short versions for PC.
METHODS: In a prospective, cross-sectional study with informal caregivers of patients in inpatient (PC unit, hospital palliative support team) and outpatient (home care team) PC settings of a large university hospital, content validity and acceptability of the ZBI and its structural validity (via confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and Rasch analysis) were tested. Reliability assessment used internal consistency and inter-rater reliability and construct validity used known-group comparisons and a priori hypotheses on correlations with Brief Symptom Inventory, Short Form-12, and Distress Thermometer.
RESULTS: Eighty-four participants (63.1% women; mean age 59.8, SD 14.4) were included. Structural validity assessment confirmed the unidimensional structure of ZBI-7 both in CFA and Rasch analysis. The item on overall burden was the best item for the ultra-short version ZBI-1. Higher burden was recorded for women and those with poorer physical health. Internal consistency was good (Cronbach's a = 0.83). Inter-rater reliability was moderate as proxy ratings estimated caregivers' burden higher than self-ratings (average measures ICC = 0.51; CI = 0.23-.69; p = 0.001).
CONCLUSION: The ZBI-7 is a valid instrument for measuring caregiver burden in PC. The ultra-short ZBI-1 can be used as a quick and proxy assessment, with the caveat of overestimating burden.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: A priority focus on palliative and supportive care is helping the 43.5 million caregivers who care for individuals with serious illness. Lacking support may lead to caregiver distress and poorer care delivery to patients with serious illness. We examined the potential of instrumental support (assistance with material and task performance) to mitigate distress among caregivers.
METHOD: We analyzed data from the nationally representative Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS V2, 2018). Informal/family caregivers were identified in HINTS V2 if they indicated they were caring for or making healthcare decisions for another adult with a health problem. We used the PROMIS® instrumental support four-item short-form T-scores and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-4) for distress. We examined multivariable linear regression models for associations between distress and instrumental support, adjusted for sampling weights, socio-demographics, and caregiving variables (care recipient health condition(s), years caregiving (=2), relationship to care recipient, and caregiver burden). We examined interactions between burden and instrumental support on caregiver distress level.
RESULTS: Our analyses included 311 caregivers (64.8% female, 64.9% non-Hispanic White). The unweighted mean instrumental support T-score was 50.4 (SD = 10.6, range = 29.3-63.3); weighted mean was 51.2 (SE = 1.00). Lower instrumental support (p < 0.01), younger caregiver age (p < 0.04), higher caregiving duration (p = 0.008), and caregiver unemployment (p = 0.006) were significantly associated with higher caregiver distress. Mean instrumental support scores by distress levels were 52.3 (within normal limits), 49.4 (mild), 48.9 (moderate), and 39.7 (severe). The association between instrumental support and distress did not differ by caregiver burden level.
CONCLUSIONS: Poor instrumental support is associated with high distress among caregivers, suggesting the need for palliative and supportive care interventions to help caregivers leverage instrumental support.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate sleep disturbances and to verify the accuracy of three screening tests to detect them in patients at the end-of-life admitted in a hospital palliative care unit.
METHOD: The level of sleep disturbances was evaluated through the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) in 150 palliative patients. This questionnaire was the criterion variable for testing the three screening tests used: Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS-Sleep subscale); the single question "How much do you worry about your sleep problems?" which is answered on a scale of 0-10 (Sleep-Worry-Q) and another single question: "Do you think you have sleep problems?" with two response categories, Yes/No (Sleep-Problem-Q).
RESULTS: According to the PSQI (cut-off point: 8), 87% of patients presented sleep disturbances. The ESAS-Sleep (cut-off point: 3) showed a sensitivity of 0.87, a specificity of 0.58, and an AUC of 0.729; the Sleep-Worry-Q (cut-off point: 4) showed a sensitivity of 0.95, a specificity of 0.68, and an AUC of 0.854; the Sleep-Problem-Q obtained a sensitivity of 0.92 and a specificity of 0.65.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Patients at the end-of-life, near the time of death, have high levels of sleep disturbances that can be detected early, with better diagnostic accuracy, with the Sleep-Worry-Q. Although from a clinical point of view, the application of the Sleep-Problem-Q may be more advantageous, as it presents good diagnostic accuracy, greater simplicity, and brevity.
Study Design: Retrospective study.
Objective: The purpose of the study was to examine survival after surgery for a metastatic spinal tumor using prognostic factors in the new Katagiri score.
Summary of Background Data: surgery for spinal metastasis can improve quality of life and facilitate treatment of the primary cancer. However, choice of therapy requires identification of prognostic factors for survival, and these may change over time due to treatment advances. The new Katagiri score for the prognosis of skeletal metastasis includes classification of the primary tumor site and the effects of chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Methods: The subjects were 201 patients (127 males, 74 females) who underwent surgery for spinal metastases at 6 facilities in the Nagoya Spine Group. Age at surgery, gender, follow-up, metastatic spine level, primary cancer, new Katagiri score (including primary site, visceral metastasis, laboratory data, performance status (PS), and chemotherapy) and survival were obtained from a prospectively maintained database.
Results: Posterior decompression (n = 29) and posterior decompression and fixation with instrumentation (n = 182) were performed at a mean age of 65.9 (range, 16-85) years. Metastasis was present in the cervical (n = 19, 10%), thoracic (n = 155, 77%), and lumbar (n = 26, 13%) spine, and sacrum (n = 1, 1%). In multivariate analysis, moderate growth (HR 2.95, 95% CI, 1.27–7.89, P < 0.01) and rapid growth (HR 4.71, 95% CI, 2.78–12.31, P < 0.01) at the primary site; nodular metastasis (HR 1.53, 95% CI, 1.07–3.85, P < 0.01) and disseminated metastasis (HR 2.94, 95% CI, 1.33–5.42, P < 0.01); and critical laboratory data (HR 3.15, 95% CI, 2.06–8.36, P < 0.01) and poor PS (HR 2.83, 95% CI, 1.67–4.77, p < 0.01) were significantly associated with poor survival.
Conclusion: accurate prognostic factors are important in deciding the treatment strategy in patients with spinal metastasis, and our identification of these factors may be useful for these patients.
Level of Evidence: 3
Background: Glioma patients make frequent decisions regarding treatment and end-of-life care despite cognitive limitations. We evaluated the feasibility of incorporating the Macarthur Competence Assessment Tool for Treatment (MacCAT-T) to assess decision-making ability in glioma patients.
Methods: High-grade glioma patients were consented to an IRB-approved prospective study at one of three treatment decision time points. Patients completed the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and providers informally assessed patient decision-making ability based on neurologic examination. The MacCAT-T, designed to assess patient decision-making domains, was administered by a research assistant. MoCA, provider assessment, and MacCAT-T results were compared to determine whether the MacCAT-T provided additional information. To assess feasibility, we measured administration time and obtained qualitative patient feedback.
Results: Eleven patients (median age = 68 years, median Karnofsky Performance Status [KPS] = 80–90) were enrolled. MacCAT-T administration averaged 18.5 minutes. Ninety percent of patients reported “increased knowledge of their treatment options” after taking the MacCAT-T. Clinicians deemed 10 patients to possess sufficient decision-making ability, yet, 6 of them demonstrated impairments in reasoning on the MacCAT-T. Seven patients yielded discordant MOCA and MacCAT-T data, five patients with MOCA score =26 showed qualitative MacCAT-T impairments in Reasoning and five patients who scored <21 were within nonimpaired ranges for three of four decision-making domains.
Conclusion: MacCAT-T administration was feasible and informative to patients but findings were discordant from MOCA and informal provider assessments. The MacCAT-T may help in identifying mild Reasoning impairments related to patients' initial treatment decisions and should be studied further to determine its role in clinical practice.
Good symptom management in oncology is associated with improved patient and family quality of life, greater treatment compliance, and may even offer survival advantages. With population growth and aging, the proportion of patients with multiple symptoms-both related and unrelated to their cancer-is anticipated to increase, supporting calls for a more routine and integrated approach to symptom management. This article presents a summary of the literature for the use of symptom assessment tools and reviews the management of four common and distressing symptoms commonly experienced by people with advanced cancer: pain, breathlessness, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue. We also discuss the role of palliative care in supporting a holistic approach to symptom management throughout the cancer trajectory.
Advanced cancer patients are at an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms, which can lead to major depressive disorder and a poor quality of life. It is important that symptoms of depression to be addressed early and frequently throughout the trajectory of the disease process. Depression is underdiagnosed and therefore undertreated in advanced cancer patients. Clinicians often fail to perform regular depression screenings as recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Depressive symptoms are overlooked as they tend to overlap with the effects of disease progression and cancer treatments. Patients' complaints of anorexia, chronic pain, and sleep disturbances do not necessarily trigger practitioners to perform depression screenings. African Americans with advanced cancer are at a higher risk of developing depression, but may not identify as depressed due to the stigma of mental health in the black community. Screening tools such as the 2- and 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire, Beck Depression Inventory II, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Distress Thermometer and Problem List are common brief instruments that can screen for depression. Providing early symptom relief of depressive symptoms through psychotherapy and pharmacologic interventions will benefit the patient, family, and caregivers while improving the quality of life throughout the trajectory of the illness.
Background: The Patient Dignity Question (PDQ) is a single question, which directly asks the patient, “What should I know about you as a person to help me take the best care of you that I can?” Research has demonstrated that the PDQ enhances quality health care within an inpatient palliative care setting; however, no research to date has examined the PDQ in an outpatient setting, particularly a psycho-oncology setting.
Objective: The PDQ was administered as part of routine clinical care in an outpatient psycho-oncology clinic to enhance patient-centered care.
Methods: Individuals diagnosed with cancer (n = 66) were referred for individual psychotherapy primarily for anxiety and/or depression. After gathering a thorough patient history during the initial psychology consult, patients were asked the PDQ as it was worded without further prompting. Patient responses were then qualitatively analyzed to measure the most common themes.
Results: The themes expressed by patients in response to the PDQ included Who I Am (59.7%), which referenced individual characteristics and core personality traits, What My Cancer Journey Has Been (21.7%) described how patients' lives have been impacted since receiving a cancer diagnosis, and What I Want to Achieve (18.4%) in which patients described what goals they wanted to achieve in their lives (both general and specific to psychotherapy).
Conclusions: Data from this small pilot study show promise that this brief assessment tool can be readily added to a psychological intake assessment and patients appreciated being asked about their personhood. Incorporating the PDQ into standard psychological care allows patients to be “seen” and helps us to acknowledge the person in the patient.
Objectives: To describe the current evidence of studies examining the use of information technology for family caregivers of persons with cancer. We highlight emerging technologies and trends and discuss ethical and practical implications.
Data Sources: Review scientific studies and systematic reviews of technology use to support caregivers of persons with cancer.
Conclusion: The evidence base is growing; however, more studies are needed to test the effectiveness of technology.
Implications for Nursing Practice: Several tools have potential to provide support to family caregivers but the selection of such tools needs to address access, privacy, interoperability, and usability considerations.
PURPOSE: The 3 Wishes Project (3WP) promotes holistic end-of-life care in the intensive care unit (ICU) to honor dying patients, support families, and encourage clinician compassion. Organ donation is a wish that is sometimes made by, or on behalf of, critically ill patients. Our objective was to describe the interface between the 3WP and organ donation as experienced by families, clinicians, and organ donation coordinators.
METHODS: In a multicenter evaluation of the 3WP in 4 Canadian ICUs, we conducted a thematic analysis of transcripts from interviews and focus groups with clinicians, organ donation coordinators, and families of dying or died patients for whom donation was considered.
RESULTS: We analyzed transcripts from 26 interviews and 2 focus groups with 18 family members, 17 clinicians, and 6 organ donation coordinators. The central theme describes the mutual goals of the 3WP and organ donation-emphasizing personhood and agency across the temporal continuum of care. During family decision-making, conversations encouraged by the 3WP can facilitate preliminary discussions about donation. During preparation for donation, memory-making activities supported by the 3WP redirect focus toward personhood. During postmortem family care, the 3WP supports families, including when donation is unsuccessful, and highlights aspirational pursuits of donation while encouraging reflections on other fulfilled wishes.
CONCLUSIONS: Organ donation and the 3WP provide complementary opportunities to engage in value-based conversations during the dying process. The shared values of these programs may help to incorporate organ donation and death into a person's life narrative and incorporate new life into a person's death narrative.
To avoid discomfort, health care professionals may hesitate to pursue conversations about end of life with patients. Certain tools have the potential to facilitate smoother conversations in this matter. The objective was to explore the experiences of patients in palliative care in using statement cards to talk about their wishes and priorities. Forty-six cards with statements of wishes and priorities were developed and tested for feasibility with 40 participants, who chose the 10 most important cards and shared their thoughts about the statements and conversation. Data from individual interviews and field notes were analyzed using content analysis. One category describes practical aspects of using the cards including the relevance of the content and the process of sorting the cards. The second category describes the significance of using the cards including becoming aware of what is important, sharing wishes and priorities, and reflecting on whether wishes and priorities change closer to death. The cards helped raise awareness and verbalize wishes and priorities. All statements were considered relevant. The conversations focused not only on death and dying, but also on challenges in the participants' current life situation. For the most ill and frail participants, the number of cards needs to be reduced.
OPINION STATEMENT: Patients with advanced cancer and their families commonly seek information about prognosis to aid decision-making in medical (e.g. surrounding treatment), psychological (e.g. saying goodbye), and social (e.g. getting affairs in order) domains. Oncologists therefore have a responsibility to identify and address these requests by formulating and sensitively communicating information about prognosis. Current evidence suggests that clinician predictions are correlated with actual survival but tend to be overestimations. In an attempt to cultivate prognostic skills, it is recommended that clinicians practice formulating and recording subjective estimates of prognosis in advanced cancer patient's medical notes. When possible, a multi-professional prognostic estimate should be sought as these may be more accurate than individual predictions alone. Clinicians may consider auditing the accuracy of their predictions periodically and using feedback from this process to improve their prognostic skills.Clinicians may also consider using validated prognostic tools to complement their clinical judgements. However, there is currently only limited evidence about the comparative accuracy of different prognostic tools or the extent to which these measures are superior to clinical judgement. Oncologists and palliative care physicians should ensure that they receive adequate training in advanced communication skills, which builds upon their pre-existing skills, to sensitively deliver information on prognosis. In particular, clinicians should acknowledge their own prognostic uncertainty and should emphasise the supportive care that can continue to be provided after stopping cancer-directed therapies.
Purpose: International guidelines are available to guide prescription of antiemetic and pain flare medications in patients receiving palliative radiotherapy for bone metastases, but prescription rates are quite variable. We hypothesized that a simple electronic quality checklist could increase the evidence-based use of these medications.
Materials and methods: We implemented an electronic quality checklist item in our center for all patients treated with palliative radiotherapy for lumbar spine bone metastases. We retrospectively reviewed patients in the 6-month pre- and post-intervention. Patients were stratified according to if they were treated within a dedicated rapid palliative (RPAL) radiotherapy program or not. Chi-square tests were used to compare rates of antiemetic and pain flare medications pre- and post-intervention and RPAL vs not.
Results: A total of 375 patients were identified with 42 (11.2%) treated in dedicated RPAL program. The proportion of patients treated with prophylactic antiemetic and pain flare medications pre-intervention (n = 226) and post-intervention (n = 149) was respectively 34.1% vs 59.1% (p < 0.001) and 26.1% vs 43.0% (p = 0.01). Observed differences for antiemetic prescription rates were greater for patients who were not treated within a dedicated palliative radiotherapy program, but this was not the case for pain flare medications.
Conclusions: Our data shows that a simple quality checklist item can have a significant effect on the evidence-based use of prophylactic antiemetic and pain flare medications in patients treated with palliative radiotherapy for bone metastases. We believe such strategies should be routinely included in other clinical pathways to improve the use of symptom control medications.