Context/Objective: Essential indicators of high-quality end-of-life care in intensive care units (ICUs) have been established but examined inconsistently and predominantly with small samples, mostly from Western countries. Our study goal was to comprehensively measure end-of-life-care quality delivered in ICUs using chart-derived process-based quality measures for a large cohort of critically ill Taiwanese patients.
Methods: For this observational study, patients with APACHE II score =20 or goal of palliative care and with ICU stay exceeding three days ( N = 326) were consecutively recruited and followed until death.
Results: Documentation of process-based indicators for Taiwanese patients dying in ICUs was variable (8.9%–96.3%), but high for physician communication of the patient's poor prognosis to his/her family members (93.0%), providing specialty palliative-care consultations (73.3%), a do-not-resuscitate order in place at death (96.3%), death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation (93.5%), and family presence at patient death (76.1%). Documentation was infrequent for social-worker involvement (8.9%) and interdisciplinary family meetings to discuss goals of care (22.4%). Patients predominantly (79.8%) continued life-sustaining treatments (LSTs) until death and died with full life support, with 88.3% and 58.9% of patients dying with mechanical ventilation support and vasopressors, respectively.
Conclusions: Taiwanese patients dying in ICUs heavily used LSTs until death despite high prevalences of documented prognostic communication, providing specialty palliative-care consultations, having a do-not-resuscitate order in place, and death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Family meetings should be actively promoted to facilitate appropriate end-of-life-care decisions to avoid unnecessary suffering from potentially inappropriate LSTs during the last days of life.
We propose that the palliative care team response will occur in two ways: first, communication and second, symptom management. Our experience with discussing goals of care with the family of a COVID-positive patient highlighted some expected and unexpected challenges. We describe these challenges along with recommendations for approaching these conversations. We also propose a framework for proactively mobilizing the palliative care workforce to aggressively address goals of care in all patients, with the aim of reducing the need for rationing of resources.
Background: The medical profession increasingly recognizes the growing need to educate nonpalliative physicians in palliative care.
Objective: This study aims to provide a scoping review of the primary palliative care (PPC) education currently available to graduate medical trainees in primary and specialty tracks.
Design: Studies of PPC interventions in U.S. residency or fellowship programs of all subspecialties published in English and listed on MEDLINE, CINAHL, and EMBASE through January 2020 were included. To meet admission criteria, studies had to describe the content, delivery methods, and evaluation instruments of a PPC educational intervention.
Results: Of 233 eligible full texts, 85 studies were included for assessment, of which 66 were novel PPC educational interventions and 19 were standard education. Total number of publications evaluating PPC education increased from 8 (2000-2004) to 36 (2015-2019), across 11 residency and 10 fellowship specialties. Residency specialties representing the majority of publications were emergency medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, and pediatric/medicine-pediatrics. PPC content domains most taught in residencies were communication and symptom management; the primary delivery method was didactics, and the outcome assessed was attitudes. Fellowship specialties representing the majority of publications were pediatric subspecialties, nephrology, and oncology. The PPC content domain most taught in fellowships was communication; the primary delivery method was didactics and the outcome evaluated was attitudes.
Conclusions: While PPC education has increased, it remains varied in content, delivery method, and intervention evaluations. Future studies should include more widespread evaluation of behavioral outcomes, longitudinal persistence of use, and clinical impact.
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study is to map the characteristics of the existing medical literature describing the medications, settings, participants and outcomes of medical assistance in dying (MAID) in order to identify knowledge gaps and areas for future research.
DESIGN: Scoping review.
SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, CINAHL and CENTRAL), clinical trial registries, conference abstracts and professional guidelines from jurisdictions where MAID is legal, up to February 2020. Eligible report types included technical summaries, institutional policies, practice surveys, practice guidelines and clinical studies that describe MAID provision in adults who have provided informed consent for MAID.
RESULTS: 163 articles published between 1989 and 2020 met eligibility criteria. 75 studies described details for MAID administered by intravenous medications and 50 studies provided data on oral medications. In intravenous protocols, MAID was most commonly administered using a barbiturate (34/163) or propofol (22/163) followed by a neuromuscular blocker. Oral protocols most often used barbiturates alone (37/163) or in conjunction with an opioid medication (7/163) and often recommended using a prokinetic agent prior to lethal drug ingestion. Complications included prolonged duration of the dying process, difficulty in obtaining intravenous access and difficulty in swallowing oral agents. Most commonly, the role of physicians was prescribing (83/163) and administering medications (75/163). Nurses' roles included administering medications (17/163) and supporting the patient (16/163) or family (13/163). The role of families involved providing support to the patient (17/163) and bringing medications from the pharmacy for self-administration (4/163).
CONCLUSIONS: We identified several trends in MAID provision including common medications and doses for oral and parenteral administration, roles of healthcare professionals and families, and complications that may cause patient, family and provider distress. Future research should aim to identify the medications, dosages, and administration techniques and procedures that produce the most predictable outcomes and mitigate distress for those involved.
Background: Research on what children wished they had done differently after their sibling's death has not been reported.
Objective: Examine what children wished they had/had not done, and their coping after a sibling's neonatal/pediatric intensive care unit/emergency department (NICU/PICU/ED) death.
Design: Qualitative data are part of a longitudinal mixed methods study of 6- to 18-year-olds interviewed at 2, 4, 6, and 13 months after a sibling's death.
Setting/Subjects: Ninety-five school-aged children and 37 adolescents (58% female; 30% Hispanic, 50% black, 20% white).
Measurements: Children responded to three open-ended questions: Thinking about your sibling's death, are there things you wish you (1) had done? (2) had not done? (3) What do you do to deal with your sibling's death? Conventional content analysis procedures were used.
Results: Children wished they had spent more time, talked and played more with their sibling, saved their sibling, taken care of their sibling more, and been able to see their sibling grow up. They wished they had not been mean/yelled at their sibling, complained/argued with mother about their sibling, and kept their feelings inside. Children coped by talking with family, friends, and the deceased; playing, reading, watching TV; avoiding thoughts about and remembering their sibling; crying, keeping calm, praying; living for their sibling. Resuming their usual activities, trying to be happy, and laughing also helped children cope.
Conclusions: Children commented more about what they wish they had done (n = 317) and less about what they wish they had not done (n = 107). Children talked to others and tried resuming usual activities to cope.
Background: Chaplain-led communication-board-guided spiritual care may reduce anxiety and stress during an intensive care unit (ICU) admission for nonvocal mechanically ventilated patients, but clinical pastoral education does not teach the assistive communication skills needed to provide communication-board-guided spiritual care.
Objective: To evaluate a four-hour chaplain-led seminar to educate chaplains about ICU patients' psychoemotional distress, and train them in assistive communication skills for providing chaplain-led communication-board-guided spiritual care.
Design: A survey immediately before and after the seminar, and one-year follow-up about use of communication-board-guided spiritual care.
Subjects/Setting: Sixty-two chaplains from four U.S. medical centers.
Measurements: Multiple-choice and 10-point integer scale questions about ICU patients' mental health and communication-board-guided spiritual care best practices.
Results: Chaplain awareness of ICU sedation practices, signs of delirium, and depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder in ICU survivors increased significantly (all p < 0.001). Knowledge about using tagged yes/no questions to communicate with nonvocal patients increased from 38% to 87%, p < 0.001. Self-reported skill and comfort in providing communication-board-guided spiritual care increased from a median (interquartile range) score of 4 (2-6) to 7 (5-8) and 6 (4-8) to 8 (6-9), respectively (both p < 0.001). One year later, 31% of chaplains reported providing communication-board-guided spiritual care in the ICU.
Conclusions: A single chaplain-led seminar taught chaplains about ICU patients' psychoemotional distress, trained chaplains in assistive communication skills with nonvocal patients, and led to the use of communication-board-guided spiritual care in the ICU for up to one year later.
OBJECTIVE: To measure the effectiveness of a brief intervention aimed at increasing interest in and use of advanced directives (AD) among primary care patients.
METHODS: Randomized controlled trial. In the intervention arm, patients were given brief oral information and a leaflet on AD by General Practitioners (GPs), in the control group were briefly informed about the study's purpose. Outcome variables were the proportion of patients who expressed interest in AD and those who completed one. Covariates were sex, age, education, race, Charlson comorbidity index (CCI), religion, and possession of financial will.
RESULTS: Overall, 332 patients were recruited; 58 in the intervention and 36 in the control group expressed interest in AD (p = 0.033) and 18 (5.4 %) made an AD (nine in each group). Variables associated with interest were Caucasian race (odds ratio [OR], 1.88), the intervention (OR, 1.86), and CCI extreme scores (OR, 0.36). Variables associated with AD completion were primary education/no schooling (OR, 5.69) and fewer children (OR, 0.57).
CONCLUSIONS: A brief oral and written intervention delivered by GP significantly increased interest in AD and achieved a completion rate of 5.4 %, without differences with the control group.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: AD interventions should focus on individuals already likely to be motivated.
BACKGROUND: There is a paucity of data to predict early death or futility after trauma. The objective of this study was to characterize the laboratory values, blood product administration, and hospital disposition for patients with trauma who died within 72 h of admission.
METHODS: All deaths within 72 h of admission over a 5-y period at a level I trauma center were reviewed. Blood transfusion within the first 4 h of arrival and patient disposition from the emergency department to the operating room (OR), surgical intensive care unit, or the neuroscience intensive care unit (NSICU) were analyzed. Kaplan-Meier curves were generated to determine time to death.
RESULTS: A total of 622 subjects were identified; 39.5% died in the emergency department, 10.6% went directly to the OR, 13.6% were admitted to the surgical intensive care unit, and 29.7% admitted to the NSICU. Of these subjects, 201 (32.2%) patients received blood within the first 4 h. By 24 h, early blood transfusion was associated with more rapid death for patients who were admitted to the NSICU (80% versus 60% mortality, P = 0.01) but not for patients taken directly to the OR (80% versus 70% mortality, P = 0.2). Admission coagulopathy by international normalized ratio (P < 0.01), but not anemia (P = 0.64) or acidosis (P = 0.45), correlated with a shorter time to death. In contrast, laboratory values obtained at 4 h after admission did not correlate with time to death.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate that admission coagulation derangement and need for early blood product transfusion are the two factors most associated with early death after injury, particularly in those patients with traumatic brain injury. These data will help construct future models for futility of continued care in patients with trauma.
Les infirmiers peuvent apporter une aide à la décision dans les situations d’urgence lors d’un choc septique, notamment si le malade n’a pas rédigé de directives anticipées et/ou désigné une personne de confiance. Ils peuvent entreprendre ou faciliter la collégialité des décisions nécessaires sur le plan juridique et éthique. Les habitus d’une équipe à la réflexion éthique et au recueil de données initial sont les garants du respect de la parole du patient.
BACKGROUND: The 3 Wishes Project (3WP) is an end-of-life program that honors the dignity of dying patients by fostering meaningful connections among patients, families, and clinicians. Since 2013, it has become embedded in the culture of end-of-life care in over 20 ICUs across North America. The purpose of the current study is to describe the variation in implementation of 3WP across sites, in order to ascertain which factors facilitated multicenter implementation, which factors remain consistent across sites, and which may be adapted to suit local needs.
METHODS: Using the methodology of qualitative description, we collected interview and focus group data from 85 clinicians who participated in the successful initiation and sustainment of 3WP in 9 ICUs. We describe the transition between different models of 3WP implementation, from core clinical program to the incorporation of various research activities. We describe various sources of financial and in-kind resources accessed to support the program.
RESULTS: Beyond sharing a common goal of improving end-of-life care, sites varied considerably in organizational context, staff complement, and resources. Despite these differences, the program was successfully implemented at each site and eventually evolved from a clinical or research intervention to a general approach to end-of-life care. Key to this success was flexibility and the empowerment of frontline staff to tailor the program to address identified needs with available resources. This adaptability was fueled by cross-pollination of ideas within and outside of each site, resulting in the establishment of a network of like-minded individuals with a shared purpose.
CONCLUSIONS: The successful initiation and sustainment of 3WP relied on local adaptations to suit organizational needs and resources. The semi-structured nature of the program facilitated these adaptations, encouraged creative and important ways of relating within local clinical cultures, and reinforced the main tenet of the program: meaningful human connection at the end of life. Local adaptations also encouraged a team approach to care, supplementing the typical patient-clinician dyad by explicitly empowering the healthcare team to collectively recognize and respond to the needs of dying patients, families, and each other.
BACKGROUND: Early palliative care consultation ("PCC") to discuss goals-of-care benefits seriously ill patients. Risk factor profiles associated with the timing of conversations in hospitals, where late conversations most likely occur, are needed.
OBJECTIVE: To identify risk factor patient profiles associated with PCC timing before death.
METHODS: Secondary analysis of an observational study was conducted at an urban, academic medical center. Patients aged 18 years and older admitted to the medical center, who had PCC, and died July 1, 2014 to October 31, 2016, were included. Patients admitted for childbirth or rehabilitationand patients whose date of death was unknown were excluded. Classification and Regression Tree modeling was employed using demographic and clinical variables.
RESULTS: Of 1141 patients, 54% had PCC "close to death" (0-14 days before death); 26% had PCC 15 to 60 days before death; 21% had PCC >60 days before death (median 13 days before death). Variables associated with receiving PCC close to death included being Hispanic or "Other" race/ethnicity intensive care patients with extreme illness severity (85%), with age <46 or >75 increasing this probability (98%). Intensive care patients with extreme illness severity were also likely to receive PCC close to death (64%) as were 50% of intensive care patients with less than extreme illness severity.
CONCLUSIONS: A majority of patients received PCC close to death. A complex set of variable interactions were associated with PCC timing. A systematic process for engaging patients with PCC earlier in the care continuum, and in intensive care regardless of illness severity, is needed.
BACKGROUND: Palliative care should be holistic, but spiritual issues are often overlooked. General practitioners and nurses working together in PaTz-groups (palliative home care groups) consider spiritual issues in palliative care to be relevant, but experience barriers in addressing spiritual issues and finding spiritual caregivers. This study evaluates the feasibility and perceived added value of a listening consultation service by spiritual caregivers in primary palliative care.
METHODS: From December 2018 until September 2019, we piloted a listening consultation service in which spiritual caregivers joined 3 PaTz-groups whose members referred patients or their relatives with spiritual care needs to them. Evaluation occurred through (i) monitoring of the implementation, (ii) in-depth interviews with patients (n = 5) and involved spiritual caregivers (n = 5), (iii) short group interviews in 3 PaTz-groups (17 GPs, 10 nurses and 3 palliative consultants), and (iv) questionnaires filled out by the GP after each referral, and by the spiritual caregiver after each consultation. Data was analysed thematically and descriptively.
RESULTS: Consultations mostly took place on appointment at the patients home instead of originally intended walk-in consultation hours. Consultations were most often with relatives (72%), followed by patients and relatives together (17%) and patients (11%). Relatives also had more consecutive consultations (mean 4.1 compared to 2.2 for patients). Consultations were on existential and relational issues, loss, grief and identity were main themes. Start-up of the referrals took more time and effort than expected. In time, several GPs of each PaTz-group referred patients to the spiritual caregiver. In general, consultations and joint PaTz-meetings were experienced as of added value. All patients and relatives as well as several GPs and nurses experienced more attention for and awareness of the spiritual domain. Patients and relatives particularly valued professional support of spiritual caregivers, as well as recognition of grief as an normal aspect of life.
CONCLUSIONS: If sufficient effort is given to implementation, listening consultation services can be a good method for PaTz-groups to find and cooperate with spiritual caregivers, as well as for integrating spiritual care in primary palliative care. This may strengthen care in the spiritual domain, especially for relatives who are mourning.
BACKGROUND: During the terminal withdrawal of life-sustaining measures for intensive care patients, the removal of respiratory support remains an ambiguous practice. Globally, perceptions and experiences of best practice vary due to the limited evidence in this area.
AIM: To identify, appraise and synthesise the latest evidence around terminal withdrawal of mechanical ventilation in adult intensive care units specific to perceptions, experiences and practices.
DESIGN: Mixed methods systematic review and narrative synthesis. A review protocol was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42018086495).
DATA SOURCES: Four electronic databases were systematically searched (Medline, Embase, CENTRAL and CINAHL). Obtained articles published between January 2008 and January 2020 were screened for eligibility. All included papers were appraised using relevant appraisal tools.
RESULTS: Twenty-five papers were included in the review. Findings from the included papers were synthesised into four themes: 'clinicians' perceptions and practices'; 'time to death and predictors'; 'analgesia and sedation practices'; 'physiological and psychological impact'.
CONCLUSIONS: Perceptions, experiences and practices of terminal withdrawal of mechanical ventilation vary significantly across the globe. Current knowledge highlights that the time to death after withdrawal of mechanical ventilation is very short. Predictors for shorter duration could be considered by clinicians and guide the choice of pharmacological interventions to address distressing symptoms that patients may experience. Clinicians ought to prepare patients, families and relatives for the withdrawal process and the expected progression and provide them with immediate and long-term support following withdrawal. Further research is needed to improve current evidence and better inform practice guidelines.
BACKGROUND: Critical care nurses routinely care for dying patients. Research on obstacles in providing end-of-life care has been conducted for more than 20 years, but change in such obstacles over time has not been examined.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether the magnitude scores of obstacles and helpful behaviors regarding end-of-life care have changed over time.
METHODS: In this cross-sectional survey study, questionnaires were sent to 2000 randomly selected members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Obstacle and helpful behavior items were analyzed using mean magnitude scores. Current data were compared with data gathered in 1999.
RESULTS: Of the 2000 questionnaires mailed, 509 usable responses were received. Six obstacle magnitude scores increased significantly over time, of which 4 were related to family issues (not accepting the poor prognosis, intrafamily fighting, overriding the patient's end-of-life wishes, and not understanding the meaning of the term lifesaving measures). Two were related to nurse issues. Seven obstacles decreased in magnitude, including poor design of units, overly restrictive visiting hours, and physicians avoiding conversations with families. Four helpful behavior magnitude scores increased significantly over time, including physician agreement on patient care and family access to the patient. Three helpful behavior items decreased in magnitude, including intensive care unit design.
CONCLUSIONS: The same end-of-life care obstacles that were reported in 1999 are still present. Obstacles related to family behaviors increased significantly, whereas obstacles related to intensive care unit environment or physician behaviors decreased significantly. These results indicate a need for better end-of-life education for families and health care providers.
Purpose: To investigate the prevalence of advance directives, healthcare proxies, and legal representatives in Austrian intensive care units (ICUs), and to explore barriers faced by adults engaged in the contemplation and documentation phase of the advance care planning process.
Methods: Two studies were conducted: (1) A 4-week multicenter study covering seven Austrian ICUs. A retrospective chart review of 475 patients who presented to the ICUs between 1 January 2019 and 31 January 2019 was conducted. (2) An interview and focus group study with 12 semi-structured expert interviews and three focus groups with 21 adults was performed to gain insights into potential barriers faced by Austrian adults planning medical decisions in advance.
Results: Of the 475 ICU patients, 3 (0.6%) had an advance directive, 4 (0.8%) had a healthcare proxy, and 7 (1.5%) had a legal guardian. Despite the low prevalence rates, patients and relatives reacted positively to the question of whether they had an advance directive. Patients older than 55 years and patients with children reacted significantly more positively than younger patients and patients without children. The interviews and focus groups revealed important barriers that prevent adults in Austria from considering planning in advance for potentially critical health states.
Conclusion: The studies show low prevalence rates of healthcare documents in Austrian ICUs. However, when patients were asked about an advance directive, reactions indicated positive attitudes. The gap between positive attitudes and actual document completion can be explained by multiple barriers that exist for adults in Austria when it comes to planning for potential future incapacity.
The aim of the research was to conduct the Turkish validity and reliability study of the Frommelt Attitude toward Care of the Dying Scale. The study used a cross-sectional research design. The sample of the study consists of 236 intensive care nurses. The data were analyzed using SPSS 22.0 and SPSS AMOS 22.0 programs. Descriptive statistical methods, reliability analysis, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were used in the analysis of the data. According to the findings of the exploratory factor analysis, the scale was divided into six factors as in its original. According to results of the confirmatory factor analysis showed that the goodness of fit of the scale was acceptable level. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients of the Frommelt Attitude toward Care of the Dying and subdimensions were found to be between 0.606 and 0.800. These results showed that the Turkish form of scale was valid and reliable and it had the necessary conditions for using Turkish form.
Background: Access to specialty palliative care delivery in the intensive care unit is inconsistent across institutions. The intensive care unit at the study institution uses a screening tool to identify patients likely to benefit from specialty palliative care, yet little is known about outcomes associated with the use of screening tools.
Objective: To identify outcomes associated with specialty palliative care referral among patients with critical illness.
Methods: Records of 112 patients with positive results on palliative care screening were retrospectively reviewed to compare outcomes between patients who received a specialty palliative care consult and those who did not. Primary outcome measures were length of stay, discharge disposition, and escalation of care.
Results: Sixty-five patients (58%) did not receive a palliative care consult. No significant differences were found in length of hospital or intensive care unit stay. Most patients who experienced mechanical ventilation did not receive a palliative care consultation ( 2 = 5.14, P = .02). Patients who were discharged to home were also less likely to receive a consult ( 2 = 4.1, P = .04), whereas patients who were discharged to hospice were more likely to receive a consult ( 2 = 19.39, P < .001).
Conclusions: Unmet needs exist for specialty palliative care. Understanding the methods of identifying patients for specialty palliative care and providing them with such care is critically important. Future research is needed to elucidate the factors providers use in their decisions to order or defer specialty palliative care consultation.
Topic: A substantial number of patients die in the intensive care unit, so high-quality end-of-life care is an important part of intensive care unit work. However, end-of-life care varies because of lack of knowledge of best practices.
Clinical Relevance: Research shows that high-quality end-of-life care is possible in an intensive care unit. This article encourages nurses to be imaginative and take an individual approach to provide the best possible end-of-life care for patients and their family members.
Purpose of Paper: To provide recommendations for high-quality end-of-life care for patients and family members.
Content Covered: This article touches on the following domains: end-of-life decision-making, place to die, patient comfort, family presence in the intensive care unit, visiting children, family needs, preparing the family, staff presence, when the patient dies, after-death care of the family, and caring for staff.
Background: The purpose of this paper is to describe how end-of-life care is managed when life-support limitation is decided in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and to analyze the influence of the further development of the Palliative Care Unit.
Methods: A 15-year retrospective study of children who died after life-support limitation was initiated in a pediatric intensive care unit. Patients were divided into two groups, pre- and post-palliative care unit development. Epidemiological and clinical data, the decision-making process, and the approach were analyzed. Data was obtained from patient medical records.
Results: One hundred seventy-five patients were included. The main reason for admission was respiratory failure (86/175). A previous pathology was present in 152 patients (61/152 were neurological issues). The medical team and family participated together in the decision-making in 145 cases (82.8%). The family made the request in 10 cases (9 vs. 1, p = 0.019). Withdrawal was the main life-support limitation (113/175), followed by withholding life-sustaining treatments (37/175). Withdrawal was more frequent in the post-palliative group (57.4% vs. 74.3%, p = 0.031). In absolute numbers, respiratory support was the main type of support withdrawn.
Conclusions: The main cause of life-support limitation was the unfavourable evolution of the underlying pathology. Families were involved in the decision-making process in a high percentage of the cases. The development of the Palliative Care Unit changed life-support limitation in our unit, with differences detected in the type of patient and in the strategy used. Increased confidence among intensivists when providing end-of-life care, and the availability of a Palliative Care Unit may contribute to improvements in the quality of end-of-life care.
In the setting of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, new strategies are needed to address the unique and significant palliative care (PC) needs of patients with COVID-19 and their families, particularly when health systems are stressed by patient surges. Many PC teams rely on referral-based consultation methods that can result in needs going unidentified and/or unmet. Here, we describe a novel system to proactively identify and meet the PC needs of all patients with COVID-19 being cared for in our hospital's intensive care units. Patients were screened through a combination of chart review and brief provider interview, and PC consultations were provided via telemedicine for those with unmet needs identified. In the first six weeks of operation, our pilot program of proactive screening and outreach resulted in PC consultation for 12 of the 29 (41%) adult patients admitted to the intensive care unit with COVID-19 at our institution. Consultations were most commonly for patient and family support as well as for goals of care and advance care planning, consistent with identified PC needs within this unique patient population.