Physicians have a responsibility to discuss do-not-resuscitate (DNR) decisions and end-of-life (EOL) care with patients and family members. The aim of this study was to explore the DNR and EOL care discussion experience among physicians in Taiwan. A qualitative study was conducted with 16 physicians recruited from the departments of hospice care, surgery, internal medicine, emergency, and the intensive care unit. The interview guidelines included their DNR experience and process and EOL care discussions, as well as their concerns, difficulties, or worries in discussions. Thematic analysis was used to analyze data. Four themes were identified. First, family members had multiple roles in the decision process. Second, the characteristics of the units, including time urgency and relationships with patients and family members, influenced physicians' work. Third, the process included preparation, exploration, information delivery, barrier solution, and execution. Fourth, physicians shared reflections on their ability and the conflicts between law, medical professionals, and the best interests of patients. Physicians must consider not only patients' but also family members' opinions and surmount several barriers in decision-making. They also experienced negative and positive impacts from these discussions.
Background: In 2017, the American College of Surgeons' Trauma Quality Improvement Program adopted a Palliative Care Best Practices Guidelines that calls for early palliative care for hospitalized injured patients.
Objective: To develop an educational intervention to address the palliative needs of injured patients.
Design: Palliative faculty presented a three-part monthly lecture series focused on core primary palliative skills, including the components of palliative care; conducting family conferences; communication skills for complex medical decision making; pain management; and, end-of-life planning. Additionally a palliative provider joined trauma team rounds every other week to highlight opportunities for enhanced palliative assessments, identify appropriate consults, and provide just-in-time teaching.
Setting: Urban, level-1 trauma center.
Measurements: Surgical residents completed a survey at the beginning and end of the academic year, during which the intervention took place. All survey questions were answered with a 5-point Likert scale. Rate of palliative care consultation was also tracked.
Results: There were statistically significant perceived improvements in goals-of-care discussions (initial discussion—4.30 vs. 3.52, p = 0.4; follow-up discussion—3.89 vs. 3.05, p = 0.021) and documentation (3.89 vs. 2.9, p = 0.032), incorporation of patient preferences into decision making (4.20 vs. 3.43, p = 0.04), discussion of palliative needs during rounds (4.30 vs. 2.81; p < 0.001) and care transitions (3.90 vs. 3.05, p = 0.008), respect for decisions to forgo life-sustaining treatments (4.40 vs. 3.52, p = 0.004), and identification of advance directives (4.11 vs. 3.05, p = 0.002) and surrogate decision maker (4.44 vs. 3.60, p = 0.015). The overall rate of palliative specialist consultation also increased (8.4% vs. 16.1%, p < 0.001).
Conclusion: Embedding primary palliative education into usual didactic and rounding time for an inpatient trauma team is an effective way to help residents develop palliative skills and foster culture change. Educational partnerships such as this may serve as an example to other trauma programs.
Background: Advance care planning (ACP) can help to enhance the care of patients with limited life expectancy. Despite physicians’ key role in ACP, the ways in which physicians estimate and communicate prognosis can be improved.
Aim: To determine how physicians in different care settings self-assess their performance in estimating and communicating prognosis to patients in palliative care, and how they perceive their communication with other physicians about patients’ poor prognosis.
Design & setting: A survey study was performed among a random sample of GPs, hospital physicians (HPs), and nursing home physicians (NHPs) in the southwest of the Netherlands (n = 2212).
Method: A questionnaire was developed that had three versions for GPs, HPs, and NHPs. Each specialism filled in an appropriate version.
Results: A total of 547 physicians participated: 259 GPs, 205 HPs, and 83 NHPs. In the study, 61.1% of physicians indicated being able to adequately estimate whether a patient will die within 1 year, which was associated with use of the Surprise Question (odds ratio [OR] = 1.65, P = 0.042). In the case of a prognosis of <1 year, 75.0% of physicians indicated that they communicate with patients about preferences regarding treatment and care, which was associated with physicians being trained in palliative care (OR = 2.02, P=0.007). In cases where patients with poor prognosis are discharged after hospital admission, 83.4% of HPs indicated that they inform GPs about these patients’ preferences compared with 29.0% of GPs, and 21.7% of NHPs, who indicated that they are usually adequately informed about the preferences.
Conclusion: The majority of physicians indicated that they believe they can adequately estimate patients’ limited life expectancy and that they discuss patients’ preferences for care. However, more physicians should be trained in communicating about patients’ poor prognosis and care preferences.
BACKGROUND: The increase in the number of pediatric patients with complex health conditions necessitates the application of advance care planning for children. Earlier, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment was taboo in the medical society in South Korea due to the history of such practice being punishable by law, and physicians tended to pursue aggressive treatment. With changes in public opinion on end-of-life care, the Korean government enacted a new law that protect human dignity by respecting patients' self-determination and facilitating advance care planning. However, little is known about current state of advance care planning for pediatric patients. The study aimed to assess perceptions regarding advance care planning among South Korean pediatricians and clarify any differences in perception among pediatric subspecialties.
METHODS: This study was an observational cross-sectional survey that used a web-based self-report questionnaire. Participants comprised of pediatricians currently caring for children with life-limiting conditions in 2018.
RESULTS: Of the 96 respondents, 89 were included in the analysis. In a hypothetical patient scenario, more hemato-oncologists and intensivists than neonatologists and neurologists preferred to provide comfort care than aggressive treatment. While 72.2% of hemato-oncologists reported that they usually or always discuss advance care plans with parents during treatment, more than half of other pediatricians reported that they seldom do so. Furthermore, 65% of respondents said that they never discuss advance care planning with adolescent patients. Moreover, there were no notable differences among subspecialties. The most prevalent answers to factors impeding advance care planning were lack of systemic support after performing advance care planning (82.0%) and uncertain legal responsibilities (70.8%).
CONCLUSIONS: The pediatricians differed in their experiences and attitudes toward advance care planning based on their subspecialty. Consequently, institutional support and education should be provided to physicians so that they can include children and families in discussions on prognosis.
OBJECTIVE: The aims of the study were to examine patients' experiences of end-of-life (EOL) discussions and to shed light on patients' perceptions of the transition from curative to palliative care.
METHODS: This study was based on a qualitative methodology; we conducted semi-structured interviews with advanced cancer patients admitted to the palliative care unit (PCU) of the Medical University of Vienna. Interviews were recorded digitally and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed based on thematic analysis, using the MAXQDA software.
RESULTS: Twelve interviews were conducted with patients living with terminal cancer who were no longer under curative treatment. The findings revealed three themes: (1) that the medical EOL conversation contributed to the transition process from curative to palliative care, (2) that patients' information preferences were ambivalent and modulated by defense mechanisms, and (3) that the realization and integration of medical EOL conversations into the individual's personal frame of reference is a process that needs effort and information from different sources coming together.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of the present study offer insight into how patients experienced their transition from curative to palliative care and into how EOL discussions are only one element within the disease trajectory. Many patients struggle with their situations. Therefore, more emphasis should be put on repeated offers to have EOL conversations and on early integration of aspects of palliative care into the overall treatment.
OBJECTIVE: The implementation of medical aid-in-dying (MAID) poses new challenges for clinical communication and counseling. Among these, health care providers must consider whether to initiate a discussion of MAID with eligible patients who do not directly ask about it. Norms and policies concerning this issue vary tremendously across jurisdictions where MAID is legally authorized, reflecting divergent assumptions about patients' rights to information about end-of-life options and the purpose and potential harms of clinical disclosure.
METHOD: This discussion forum essay draws on informed consent doctrine to analyze two policies concerning clinical communication about MAID: the legal prohibition against provider-initiated discussions of MAID in Victoria, Australia, and the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP) position that providers have an ethical and professional responsibility to inform eligible patients about MAID.
CONCLUSIONS: Informed consent requires that clinicians strike a balance between minimizing potential harms to patients caused by initiating discussions of MAID and the imperative to inform and counsel patients about all of their legally available medical options.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Clinicians should be aware of both the importance of communication as a tool to inform patients and the potential for clinical language to cause harm to or to unduly influence patients.
BACKGROUND: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is associated with an uncertain trajectory, which challenges prognostication and means that most patients are not involved in advance care planning and do not receive palliative and end-of-life care.
AIM: To understand the preferences of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for discussions about palliative and advance care planning with clinicians.
DESIGN: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Data analysis was guided by principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis, of which symbolic interactionism and interpretation principles were employed throughout.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: A total of 33 British patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at different stages of their disease trajectory were recruited.
RESULTS: Patients preferred to discuss palliative care with clinicians they perceived had greater levels of competency and authority in care and with whom they had an established relationship, usually a specialist. Patients favoured large amounts of information about treatments and care, but reported a lack of illness-related information and problems accessing appointments with clinicians. Consequently, patients deferred discussions to the future, usually once their condition had deteriorated significantly or planned to wait for clinicians to initiate conversations. This was not rooted in patient preferences, but related to clinicians' lack of time, absence of an established relationship and belief that appointments were for managing current symptoms, exacerbations and disease factors rather than future care and preferences.
CONCLUSION: Different perceptions, competing priorities and service rationing inhibit patients from initiating early discussions with clinicians, so palliative care conversations should be initiated by respiratory-expert clinicians who know the patient well. After a sudden deterioration in the patient's condition may be a suitable time.
PURPOSE: Guidelines recommend earlier advance care planning discussions focused on goals and values (serious illness communication) among oncology patients. We conducted a prospective, cross-sectional quality improvement evaluation of patients who had a serious illness conversation (SIC) with an oncology clinician using the Serious Illness Conversation Guide to understand patient perceptions of conversations using a structured guide.
METHODS: We contacted 66 oncology patients with an SIC documented in the electronic health record. Thirty-two patients (48%) responded to survey and/or structured interview questions by telephone. We used summary statistics and thematic analysis to analyze results.
RESULTS: Twenty-eight respondents (90%) reported that the SIC was worthwhile. Seventeen respondents (55%) reported that the conversation increased their understanding of their future health, and 18 (58%) reported that the conversation increased their sense of closeness with their clinician. Although the majority of respondents (28 [90%]) reported that the conversation increased (13 [42%]) or had no effect (15 [48%]) on their hopefulness, a small minority (3 [10%]) reported a decrease in hopefulness. Qualitative analysis revealed 6 themes: clinician-patient relationship, impact on well-being, memorable characteristics of the conversation, improved prognostic understanding, practical planning, and family communication.
CONCLUSION: SICs are generally acceptable to oncology patients (nonharmful to the vast majority, positive for many). Our qualitative analysis suggests a positive impact on prognostic understanding and end-of-life planning, but opportunities for improvement in the delivery of prognosis and preparing patients for SICs. Our data also identify a small cohort who responded negatively, highlighting an important area for future study.
Background: The characteristics of physician communication with patients at the end of life (EOL) in East Asia have not been well studied. We investigated physicians' communications with imminently dying patients with cancer and their families in palliative care units (PCUs) in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Methods: This observational study included patients with cancer newly admitted and deceased during their first admission to 39 PCUs in three countries. We evaluated 1) the prevalence and timing of informing patients and families of patients' impending death and 2) the prevalence of communication to assure the families of the patient's comfort.
Results: We analyzed 2138 patients (Japan: 1633, South Korea: 256, Taiwan: 249). Fewer Japanese (4.8%: 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 3.8%–5.9%) and South Korean (19.6%: 95% CI, 15.2%–25.0%) patients were informed of their impending death, whereas 66.4% (95% CI, 60.2%–72.1%) of Taiwanese were informed; among all three countries, =90% of families were informed. Although most patients in all three countries and the families in South Korea and Taiwan were informed of the impending death greater than or equal to four days before death, 62.1% (95% CI, 59.6%–64.6%) of Japanese families were informed less than or equal to three days prior. Most families in all three countries received assurance that the patient would remain comfortable (could hear until death, no distress with death rattle or respiration with mandibular movement).
Conclusions: Physicians in Taiwan communicated about patient's impending death most frequently, and physicians in all three countries generally provided assurance to families that the patients would remain comfortable. Further studies should explore the reasons for these differences and the effects of such communications in East Asia.
CONTEXT: Advancing the science of serious illness communication requires methods for measuring characteristics of conversations in large studies. Understanding which characteristics predict clinically important outcomes can help prioritize attention to scalable measure development.
PURPOSE: To understand whether audibly recognizable expressions of distressing emotion during palliative care serious illness conversations are associated with ratings of patient experience or 6-month enrollment in hospice.
METHODS: We audio-recorded initial palliative care consultations involving 231 hospitalized people with advanced cancer at two large academic medical centers. We coded conversations for expressions of fear, anger and sadness. We examined the distribution of these expressions and their association with pre-post ratings of Feeling Heard & Understood and 6-month hospice enrollment following the consultation.
RESULTS: Nearly 6 in 10 conversations included at least one audible expression of distressing emotion (59%; 137/231). Among conversations with such an expression, fear was the most prevalent (72%; 98/ 137) followed by sadness (50%; 69/ 137) and anger (45%; 62/137). Anger expression was associated with more disease-focused end-of-life treatment preferences, pre-post consultation improvement in feeling heard & understood and lower 6-month hospice enrollment. Fear was strongly associated with pre-consultation patient ratings of shorter survival expectations. Sadness did not exhibit strong association with patient descriptors or outcomes.
CONCLUSION: Fear, anger and sadness are commonly expressed in hospital-based palliative care consultations with people who have advanced cancer. Anger is an epidemiologically useful predictor of important clinical outcomes.
BACKGROUND: Advance care planning is not well implemented in Belgian hospital practice. In order to obtain successful implementation, implementation theory states that the adopters should be involved in the implementation process. This information can serve as a basis for creating better implementation strategies.
AIM: For this study, we asked hospitalized palliative patients and their families what they experienced as good advance care planning.
METHODS: Twenty-nine interviews were taken from patients and families, following the Tape Assisted Recall procedure of Elliot. These interviews were analyzed using content analysis based on grounded theory. To improve reliability, 3 independent external auditors audited the analysis.
RESULTS: Results show that hospitalized palliative patients and families want to have advance care planning communication about treatment and care throughout their disease and about different aspects: social, psychological, physical, practical, and medical. They prefer to have these conversations with their supervising physician. They report 4 important goals of advance care planning communication: establishing a trustful relationship with the physician, in which they feel the involvement of the physician; giving and receiving relevant information for the decision process, making a personal decision about which treatment and care are preferred; and finding consensus between the preferred decision of the physician, the patient and the family concerning the treatment and care policy.
CONCLUSION: This study can contribute to advance care planning implementation in hospital practice because it gives in insight into which elements in advance care planning patients and families experience as necessary and when advance care planning is necessary to them.
Purpose: As many as 20% of oncology patients receive chemotherapy in the last 14 days of their lives. This study characterized conversations between patients and cancer clinicians on chemotherapy cessation in the setting of advanced cancer.
Methods: This 3-site study captured real-time, audio-recorded interviews between oncology clinicians and patients with cancer during actual clinic visits. Audio-recordings were reviewed for discussion of chemotherapy cessation and were analyzed qualitatively.
Results: Among 525 recordings, 14 focused on stopping chemotherapy; 14 patients participated with 11 different clinicians. Two types of nonmutually exclusive conversation elements emerged: direct and specific elements that described an absence of effective therapeutic options and indirect elements. An example of a direct element is as follows: “…You know this is…always really tough…But I—I think that you may need more help…I think we’re close to stopping chemotherapy…And hospice is really helpful to have in place…” In contrast, the second conversation element was more convoluted: “…transplant is not an option and surgery is not an option…The options…are taking a pill…It doesn’t shrink the tumor…It may help you live a little longer. But I’m worried if [you] had the pill, it’s still a therapy and it still has side effects. I [am] worried if I give it to you now, that you’re so weak, it will make you worse.” No relationship seemed apparent between conversation elements and chemotherapy cessation.
Conclusions: Conversations on chemotherapy cessation are complex; multiple factors appear to drive the decision to stop.
Background: Advance care plans (ACP) provide patients the opportunity to communicate their goals and wishes for future care.
Local problem: A retrospective case note review of 50 inpatient deaths in 2017 confirmed a doctor had discussed expected death in 90%, however only 2% had an ACP.
Methods: Patients appropriate for ACP were identified on a single geriatrics ward. Interventions were implemented with monthly data collection. Patients with an ACP were followed prospectively. The initiatives were subsequently applied across six geriatrics wards.
Interventions: Interventions included improved identification of patients appropriate for ACP, doctor education and improved communication to general practitioners and healthcare providers.
Results: Before initiation of interventions on the pilot ward, ACP was completed for 38% of appropriate patients; this increased to a mean of 78.6% over 4 months post-interventions. During the pilot, 44 patients had an ACP. Of those discharged, 75% avoided readmission over the following 6 months. After applying the interventions across all geriatric wards, ACPs increased to a mean of 81.2% and was maintained 12 months later at 72%.
Conclusions: The initiatives formed a structure to promote the use of ACP on the wards. Care plans focused on individualising care and effective communication resulted in reduction of readmissions.
“I’m ready to quit,” she admits. “I’m tired and I miss my family.” I can see she is anxious for my response, fearful to disappoint.
Pat and I have known each other a long time. Most of our visits start with sheepish confessions about how she is not quite following my recommendations: “Yes, I’m still smoking.” “No, I haven’t called the genetic counselor back yet.” “I didn’t actually fill that prescription.” The revelations are generally followed with a self-deprecating quip: “I’m your worst patient, aren’t I?”.
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Introduction: Communication is considered a key skill for physicians globally and has formed a central part of medical curricula since the WHO identified it as a key attribute of the ‘5-star doctor’. Communication of poor prognosis to patients and caregivers is particularly challenging, yet an important example of physicians’ clinical communication, and a priority within palliative care research. Knowledge is scarce regarding the different positions physicians adopt during poor prognosis communication, especially in sub-Saharan countries.
Methods: This qualitative study took place at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital in Ghana’s Central Region. Physicians in the internal medicine department, with experience in communicating poor prognosis to patients and families on a weekly basis were purposively sampled. Based on the concept of information power, a maximum variation of participants, in terms of age, sex, seniority and experience was achieved after conducting 10 semistructured interviews in March 2019. Positioning theory was used as a theoretical lens to inform study design. The data were analysed through a constructivist thematic analysis approach.
Results: Physicians adopted six positions, considered as six different themes, during their communication of poor prognosis: clinical expert, educator, counsellor, communicator, protector and mentor. Physicians’ choice of position was fluid, guided by local context and wider health system factors. Physicians’ desire to communicate with patients and families in a way that met their needs highlighted three key challenges for communication of poor prognosis: linguistic difficulties, pluralistic health beliefs and the role of family. These challenges presented ethical complexities in relation to autonomy and non-maleficence.
Conclusion: Context is key to physicians’ communication of poor prognosis. Communication of poor prognosis is multifaceted, complex and unpredictable. Physicians’ communication training should be developed to emphasise contextual circumstances and physician support, and international policy models on physicians’ roles developed to include a greater focus on social accountability.
Introduction: Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and interstitial lung disease have a significant burden of symptoms. Many are not offered palliative care (PC). Our aim was to investigate the attitudes to and barriers for PC among physicians.
Method: A web-based survey was conducted among members of the Danish Respiratory Society. The questionnaire included contextual (gender, age, clinical experience, type of center, patient caseload) and outcome questions (knowledge and use of statements for PC and advance care planning [ACP], practice of communication about end-of-life decisions, practice for referral to PC, barriers regarding structural surroundings, clinical skills, and organization).
Results: One hundred fifty-six (45%) physicians responded. Median age was 40 - 49 years and 55% were female. Fifty-two percent were specialists; 71% worked at a university hospital. The majority of physicians (60%) reported barriers for discussions about PC and ACP; 63% reported lack of time, 52% lack of multidisciplinary staff settings, 63% reported the unpredictability of the prognosis, and 20% insufficient awareness of patient's culture, religion, or spirituality. Fewer specialists than nonspecialists reported barriers toward ACP. The majority had knowledge of guidelines in PC and ACP, but only a minority used these in daily clinical practice.
Conclusion: The attitude toward PC and ACP conversations was positive and implementation was regarded as important, but only a minority performed these conversations in practice. Main barriers were lack of time and staff. Palliative care guidelines were known but only scarcely used. Structural changes at the organizational level to improve access to palliation for patients with nonmalignant chronic lung diseases are needed.
Jean-Pierre Gaume nous propose des clés pour transformer la relation malade - médecin en une véritable communication permettant ainsi au patient de se relier à sa maladie et de la vivre comme un langage porteur de sens. Pour parvenir à ce résultat, l'auteur a proposé dans son livre un guide de bonnes pratiques pour favoriser une écoute active et participative. Ce livre qui s'adresse à tous les soignants soucieux d'améliorer leur relation avec les malades, séduit par la richesse de son contenu et de sa documentation qui s'appuie sur plus de 190 références bibliographiques tirées de la littérature médicale, philosophique, historique, psychanalytique et éthique.
Jean-Pierre Gaume, à travers ses 40 années de médecine générale et ses 20 années d'enseignement de la discipline à la faculté de médecine, nous montre comment nous méfier des seules méthodes diagnostiques dépendantes de la biologie moléculaire, des isotopes ou de l'imagerie moderne pour accéder à la vérité du malade.
Context: Cancer is a life-changing diagnosis accompanied by significant emotional distress, especially for children with advanced disease. However, the content and processes of discussing emotion in advanced pediatric cancer remain unknown.
Objectives: To describe the initiation, response, and content of emotional communication in advanced pediatric cancer.
Methods: We audiorecorded 35 outpatient consultations between oncologists and families of children whose cancer recently progressed. We coded conversations based on Verona Coding Definitions of Emotional Sequences.
Results: About 91% of conversations contained emotional cues, and 40% contained explicit emotional concerns. Parents and clinicians equally initiated cues (parents: 48%, 183 of 385; clinicians: 49%) and concerns (parents: 51%; clinicians: 49%). Children initiated 3% of cues and no explicit concerns. Emotional content was most commonly related to physical aspects of cancer and/or treatment (28% of cues and/or concerns, present in 80% of conversations) and prognosis (27% of cues and/or concerns, present in 60% of conversations). Clinicians mostly responded to emotional cues and concerns implicitly, without specifically naming the emotion (85%). Back channeling (using minimal prompts or words that encourage further disclosure, e.g., uh-huh) was the most common implicit response that provided space for emotional disclosure (32% of all responses). Information advice was the most common implicit response that reduced space for further emotional disclosure (28%).
Conclusion: Emotional communication in advanced pediatric cancer appears to be a subtle process where parents offer hints and clinicians respond with non-emotion-laden statements. Also, children were seldom engaged in emotional conversations. Clinicians should aim to create an environment that allows families to express emotional distress if and/or when ready.
L'entretien entre un professionnel de santé et un patient ou son proche est à la fois le coeur et l'outil de la relation.
Si un échange peut soutenir les personnes, la seule présence du clinicien ne suffit pas, pas plus que la simple conversation.
Pour que l'entretien ait valeur d'acte thérapeutique, il importe que le professionnel adopte une écoute et une attitude spécifiques afin de favoriser l'expression du patient ou de son proche.
Les auteurs, médecins, soignants, psychologues cliniciens, ne livrent pas des trames d'entretiens valables en toutes circonstances, mais des approches applicables à la singularité de chacun.
Ils partagent la richesse de leur pratique quotidienne d'entretiens, qu'ils exercent dans des services de réanimation, de médecine, ou dans le champ psychosocial.
Ils détaillent la diversité de leurs rencontres avec des patients, leur entourage ou toute personne en besoin d'aide et de soutien, que ce soit dans le cadre d'une consultation dédiée ou de façon plus informelle.
Les situations cliniques abordées permettent de saisir les enjeux de l'annonce concernant une évolution défavorable en réanimation, la limitation ou l'arrêt de thérapeutiques actives, le prélèvement d'organes, ou la nécessité d'une dialyse.
Les psychologues sont aussi conduits à intervenir dans des situations de soutien à la parentalité, face à des personnes âgées, en fin de vie, migrantes, des victimes d'abus sexuel, etc.
Cet ouvrage fournit à l'ensemble des professionnels de la santé des repères pour veiller à ce que l'entretien soit un acte thérapeutique.
Il s'agit de contribuer à une avancée vers un mieux-être du patient ou de ses proches, qui vivent des expériences générant des émotions intenses.
BACKGROUND: Early integration of palliative care concurrently to standard cancer care is associated with several benefits for patients and their caregivers. However, communication barriers on part of the caring physicians often impede a timely referral to palliative care. This study describes the protocol of the evaluation of a communication skills training aiming to strengthen the ability of physicians to address palliative care related topics adequately and early during disease trajectory.
METHODS: We will implement a communication skills training and evaluate it within a prospective, multi-centered, two-armed randomized controlled trial (RCT), which will be conducted at four sites in Germany. Eligible subjects are all physicians treating patients with advanced cancer in their daily routine. An intervention group (IG) receiving a group training will be compared to a wait-list control group (CG) receiving the training after completion of data collection. At pre- and post-measurement points, participants will conduct videotaped conversations with standardized simulated patients (SP). Primary outcome will be the external rating of communication skills and consulting competencies addressing palliative care related topics. Secondary outcomes on core concepts of palliative care, basic knowledge, attitudes, confidence and self-efficacy will be assessed by standardized questionnaires and self-developed items. A further external assessment of the quality of physician-patient-interaction will be conducted by the SP. Longitudinal quantitative data will be analyzed using covariate-adjusted linear mixed-models.
DISCUSSION: If the communication skills training proves to be effective, it will provide a feasible intervention to promote an earlier communication of palliative care related topics in the care of advanced cancer patients. This would help to further establish early integration of palliative care as it is recommended by national and international guidelines.