To support the early integration of palliative home care (PHC) in cancer treatment, we developed the EPHECT intervention and pilot tested it with 30 advanced cancer patients in Belgium using a pre post design with no control group. We aim to determine the feasibility, acceptability and perceived effectiveness of the EPHECT intervention.
BACKGROUND: Since its legalisation in 2002, the number of times euthanasia has been carried out in response to requests from adults with psychiatric conditions (APC) has continued to increase. However, little is known about why and how psychiatrists become engaged in the assessment of such euthanasia requests.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey study was conducted between November 2018 and April 2019 of 499 psychiatrists affiliated with the Flemish Psychiatry Association. Chi square/Fisher's exact tests were performed to examine if, and to what extent, psychiatrists' backgrounds relate to their concrete experiences. The answers to the open question regarding motives for (non-) engagement were thematically coded.
RESULTS: Two hundred one psychiatrists participated, a response rate of 40%. During their careers, 80% of those responding have been confronted with at least one euthanasia request from an APC patient and 73% have become involved in the assessment procedure. Their engagement was limited to the roles of: referring physician (in 44% of the psychiatrists), attending physician (30%), legally required 'advising physician' (22%), and physician participating in the actual administration of the lethal drugs (5%). Within the most recent 12 months of practice, 61% of the respondents have been actively engaged in a euthanasia assessment procedure and 9% have refused at least once to be actively engaged due to their own conscientious objections and/or the complexity of the assessment. The main motive for psychiatrists to engage in euthanasia is the patient's fundamental right in Belgian law to ask for euthanasia and the psychiatrist's duty to respect that. The perception that they were sufficiently competent to engage in a euthanasia procedure was greater in psychiatrists who have already had concrete experience in the procedure.
CONCLUSIONS: Although the majority of psychiatrists have been confronted with euthanasia requests from their APC patients, their engagement is often limited to referring the request to a colleague physician for further assessment. More research is needed to identify the determinants of a psychiatrist's engagement in euthanasia for their APC patients and to discover the consequences of their non-, or their restricted or full engagement, on both the psychotherapeutic relationship and the course of the euthanasia request.
BACKGROUND: Although the Belgian assessment pathway for legal euthanasia requires the engagement of at least one psychiatrist, little is known about psychiatrists' attitudes towards euthanasia for adults with psychiatric conditions (APC). This study aims to gauge psychiatrists' attitudes towards and readiness to engage in euthanasia assessment and/or performance procedures in APC.
METHODS: This cross-sectional survey study was performed between November 2018 and April 2019. The survey was sent to a sample of 499 eligible psychiatrists affiliated to the Flemish Association for Psychiatry, a professional association that aims to unite and represent all psychiatrists working in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking, northern part of Belgium. The Association's members comprise an estimated 80-90% of all psychiatrists active in Flanders. Only psychiatrists working with APC (83% of the association's total membership) were included. Factorial Anova and Chi Square tests were performed to examine if and to what extent psychiatrists' backgrounds were associated with, respectively, their attitudes and their readiness to play a role in euthanasia procedures concerning APC.
RESULTS: One hundred eighty-four psychiatrists completed the questionnaire (response rate 40.2%); 74.5% agree that euthanasia should remain permissible for APC. However, 68.9% question some of the approaches taken by other physicians during the euthanasia assessment and only half consider euthanasia assessment procedures compatible with the psychiatric care relationship. Where active engagement is concerned, an informal referral (68%) or preliminary advisory role (43.8%) is preferred to a formal role as a legally required advising physician (30.3%), let alone as performing physician (<10%).
CONCLUSION: Although three quarters agree with maintaining the legal option of euthanasia for APC, their readiness to take a formal role in euthanasia procedures appears to be limited. More insight is required into the barriers preventing engagement and what psychiatrists need, be it education or clarification of the legal requirements, to ensure that patients can have their euthanasia requests assessed adequately.
Purpose: Balancing medications that are needed and beneficial and avoiding medications that may be harmful is important to prevent drug-related problems, and improve quality of life. The aim of this study is to describe medication use, the prevalence of deprescribing of medications suitable for deprescribing, and the prevalence of new initiation of potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) in nursing home (NH) residents with life-limiting disease in Flanders.
Methods: NH residents aged = 65, suffering from end stage organ failure, advanced cancer, and/or dementia (n = 296), were included in this cross-sectional study with retrospective analyses of medication use at the time of data collection (t2) and 3 to 6 months before (t1). The appraisal of appropriateness of medications was done using a list of medications documented as suitable for deprescribing, and STOPPFrail criteria.
Results: Residents’ (mean age 86 years, 74% female) mean number of chronic medications increased from 7.4 (t1) to 7.9 (t2). In 31% of those using medications suitable for deprescribing, at least one medication was actually deprescribed. In 30% at least one PIM from the group of selected PIMs was newly initiated. In the subgroup (n = 76) for whom deprescribing was observed, deprescribing was associated with less new initiations of PIMs (r = - 0.234, p = 0.042).
Conclusion: Medication use remained high at the end of life for NH residents with life-limiting disease, and deprescribing was limited. However, in the subgroup of 76 residents for whom deprescribing was observed, less new PIMs were initiated.
PURPOSE: This study evaluated the effect of early integrated palliative care (PC) in oncology on quality of life (QOL) near the end of life and use of health care resources near the end of life.
METHOD: Patients with advanced cancer and a life expectancy of approximately 1 year were randomly assigned to either early and systematic integration of PC into oncological care (intervention) or standard oncological care alone (control). QOL was assessed with the EORTC QLQ-C30 global health status/QOL scale and McGill Quality of Life (MQOL) Single Item Scale and Summary Scale at baseline, 12 weeks and 6 weekly thereafter until death. Use of health care resources was collected from chart review in patient's electronic medical file for patients who died while participating in the study.
RESULTS: Of the 186 randomised patients, 185 participants had a baseline measurement and were analysed. By November 2017, 128 patients had died while participating in the study. When applying the terminal decline model, patients in the intervention group scored significantly higher on global health status/QOL of the EORTC QLQ C30, at 6 months (difference: 5.9 [0.06; 11.1], p = 0.03), 3 (difference: 6.8 [1.0; 12.6], p = 0.02), and 1 month (difference: 7.6 [0.7; 14.5], p = 0.03) prior to the patient's death compared to the control group. Similar results were found for the Single Item Scale and Summary Score of the MQOL. We did not observe differences in use of health care resources between groups.
DISCUSSION: Early integrated palliative care in oncology is a valuable approach since it also increases QOL near the end of life and not only soon after initiation of PC.
Background: People with advanced cancer experience multiple symptoms during their illness trajectory, which can fluctuate in intensity.
Aim: To describe the course of self-reported quality of life, emotional functioning, physical functioning and symptom intensity over time in cancer patients receiving palliative care.
Design: Longitudinal study with monthly assessments, using the EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL. Data were analysed (1) prospectively, from baseline to =8-month follow-up; and (2) retrospectively, by taking death as index date and comparing results from three cross-sectional subsamples at different stages of illness (time to death =6, 5–3 and 2–0 months). Linear mixed models were calculated.
Setting/participants: A total of 1739 patients (mean age 66, 50% male) from 30 palliative care centers in 12 countries were included.
Results: In prospective analyses, quality of life, functioning and symptoms–except nausea/vomiting–remained generally stable over time. In retrospective analyses, patients 2–0 months before death reported significantly lower quality of life and physical functioning scores than those 5–3 months before death, who in turn scored lower than those =6 months before death, suggesting progressive decline. Emotional functioning remained initially unchanged, but decreased in the last months. Pain, fatigue and appetite loss showed a stable increase in intensity towards death. Dyspnea, insomnia and constipation increased from 5–3 to 2–0 months before death. Nausea/vomiting only increased when comparing those =6 months before death with those 2–0 months before death.
Conclusion: While the prospective approach showed predominantly stable patterns for quality of life, functioning and symptom severity throughout study duration, retrospective analyses indicated that deterioration was already apparent before the terminal phase and accelerated close to death. Our findings support the importance of early symptom identification and treatment in this population, and highlight the need for further studies to explore what characterizes those with either lower or higher symptom burden at different time points towards death.
OBJECTIVES: Recent studies have shown that the early provision of palliative care (PC) integrated into oncology in the hospital has beneficial effects on the quality of life of people who are dying and their family caregivers. However, a model to integrate palliative home care (PHC) early in oncology care is lacking. Therefore, our aim is to develop the Early Palliative Home care Embedded in Cancer Treatment (EPHECT) intervention.
METHODS: We conducted a phase 0-1 study according to the Medical Research Council framework. Phase 0 consisted of a literature search on existing models for early integrated PC, and focus groups with PHC teams to investigate experiences with being introduced earlier. In phase 1, we developed a complex intervention to support the early integration of PHC in oncology care, based on the results of phase 0. The intervention components were reviewed and refined by professional caregivers and stakeholders.
RESULTS: Phase 0 resulted in components underpinning existing interventions. Based on this information, we developed an intervention in phase 1 consisting of: (1) information sessions for involved professionals, (2) general practitioner as coordinator of care, (3) regular and tailored home consultations by the PHC team, (4) a semistructured conversation guide to facilitate consultations, and (5) interprofessional and transmural collaboration.
CONCLUSION: Taking into account the experiences of the PHC teams with being involved earlier and the components underpinning successful interventions, the EPHECT intervention for the home setting was developed. The feasibility and acceptability of the intervention will be tested in a phase II study.
OBJECTIVES: Palliative care is still often involved late in the disease trajectory. Recently, some studies have explored the barriers to early integration of PC in the hospital setting. Because palliative care home care (PHC) is organised differently compared with PC in a hospital setting, the identification of barriers to the early integration of PHC is needed.
METHODS: Six focus groups were held with PHC teams in Flanders, Belgium. Discussions were transcribed verbatim and analysed using constant comparative analysis.
RESULTS: Our findings confirm many barriers found in previous studies, such as the lack of financial resources and the perception of PC as terminal care. Oncologists' lack of knowledge about the content and role of PC is also confirmed. Furthermore, professional caregivers working in the home context are lacking information on oncology therapies necessary to provide optimal PC. A barrier for the home context is the discontinuity of care, as a result of a lack of communicational structure and a lack of central coordination.
CONCLUSION: The results contribute to a better understanding of the factors hindering the provision of PHC alongside oncology care. For the home context, transmural discontinuity of care seems to be an important additional barrier.
Objectives: To evaluate the impact of palliative home care support on the quality of care and costs in the last 14 days of life.
Design: Matched cohort study using linked administrative databases.
Setting: All people who died in Belgium in 2012 (n=107 847).
Participants: 8837 people who received palliative home care support in the last 720 to 15 days of life matched 1:1 by propensity score to 8837 people who received usual care.
Intervention: Receiving the allowance for palliative home patients, multidisciplinary palliative home care team visit or palliative nurse or physiotherapist visit at home.
Main outcome measures: Home death, number of family physician contacts, number of primary caregiver contacts, hospital death, hospital admission, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, emergency department (ED) admission, diagnostic testing, blood transfusion and surgery. Total inpatient and outpatient costs. All outcomes were measured in the last 14 days of life.
Results: In the unmatched cohort, 11 149 (13.5%) people received palliative home care support in the last 720 to 15 days of life. After matching, those using palliative home care support had, compared with those who did not, more family physician contacts (mean 3.1 [SD=6.5] vs 0.8 [SD=1.2]), more chance of home death (56.2%vs13.8%; relative risk [RR]=4.08, 95% CI 3.86 to 4.31), lower risk of hospital admission (27.4%vs60.8%; RR=0.45, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.46), ICU admission (18.3%vs40.4%; RR=0.45, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.48) or ED admission (15.2%vs28.1%; RR=0.54, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.57). Mean total costs of care were lower for those using palliative home care support (€3081 [95% CI €3025 to €3136] vs €4698 [95% CI €4610 to €4787]; incremental cost: -€1617 [p<0.001]).
Conclusions: Palliative home care support use positively impacts quality of care and reduces total costs of care at the end of life in Belgium. Policy makers and healthcare practitioners should increasingly focus on communicating the existing options for palliative home care support to patients and their caregivers.
BACKGROUND: Referral to specialized palliative care services (SPCS) occurs often late in the illness trajectory but may differ across cancer types. We examined differences between cancer types in the use and timing of referral to specialized palliative care services (SPCS) and in the reasons for non-referral.
METHODS: We conducted a population-based mortality follow-back survey among physicians who certified a representative sample of deaths in Flanders, Belgium. We focused only on sampled death cases of cancer (n = 2392). The questionnaire asked about the use of the existing types of SPCS and the timing of referral to these services.
RESULTS: Response rate was 58% (1394/2392). Patients who died from breast, respiratory, head and neck, genitourinary or gastrointestinal cancer had higher chances of using SPCS compared to hematologic cancer patients. The most prevalent reason for non-referral was that regular care sufficiently addressed palliative and supportive care needs (51%). This differed significantly between cancer types ranging from 77,8% for breast cancer and 42.1% for hematologic cancer. A second prevalent reason for not using SPCS was that it was not meaningful (enough) (23.9%), particularly for hematologic malignancies (35,1%) and only in 5.3% for breast cancer.
CONCLUSION: Differences in referral across different types of cancer were found. Referral is more often delayed or not initiated for patients with hematologic cancer, possibly due to differences in illness trajectory. An influencing reason is that physicians perceive palliative care as not meaningful or not meaningful enough for these patients which may be linked to the uncertainty in the disease trajectory of hematologic malignancies.
Aim: To describe (i) the timing of initiation of advance care planning (ACP) after nursing home admission; (ii) the association of dementia and physical health with ACP initiation; and (iii) if and how analgesic use and use of lipid modifying agents is related to ACP, in a cohort of newly admitted residents.
Methods: A prospective, observational cohort study of nursing home residents was carried out. Data were collected 3 months, 15 months (year 1) and 27 months (year 2) after admission, using a structured questionnaire and validated measuring tools.
Results: ACP was never initiated during the 2-year stay for 38% of the residents, for 22% ACP was initiated at admission, for 21% during year 1 and for 19% during year 2 (n = 323). ACP initiation was strongly associated with dementia, but not with physical health. Residents without dementia were more likely to have ACP initiation at admission or not at all, whereas ACP initiation was postponed for residents with dementia. Between admission and year 2, analgesic use increased (from 34% to 42%), and the use of lipid-modifying agents decreased (from 28% to 21%). Analgesic use increased more in residents with ACP initiation during year 1 and year 2. The use of lipid-modifying agents was not associated with ACP.
Conclusions: The timing of ACP initiation differed significantly for residents with and without dementia, which highlights the importance of an early onset of ACP before residents lose their decision-making capacity. ACP conversations might create opportunities to discuss adequate pain and other symptom treatment, and deprescribing at the end of life.
BACKGROUND: Knowing the barriers/enablers to deprescribing in people with a life-limiting disease is crucial for the development of successful deprescribing interventions. These barriers/enablers have been studied, but the available evidence has not been summarized in a systematic review.
AIM: To identify the barriers/enablers to deprescribing of medications in people with a life-limiting disease.
DESIGN: Systematic review, registered in PROSPERO (CRD42017073693).
DATA SOURCES: A systematic search of MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science and CENTRAL was conducted and extended with a hand search. Peer-reviewed, primary studies reporting on barriers/enablers to deprescribing in the context of explicit life-limiting disease were included in this review.
RESULTS: A total of 1026 references were checked. Five studies met the criteria and were included in this review. Three types of barriers/enablers were found: organizational, professional and patient (family)-related barriers/enablers. The most prominent enablers were organizational support (e.g. for standardized medication review), involvement of multidisciplinary teams in medication review and the perception of the importance of coming to a joint decision regarding deprescribing, which highlighted the need for interdisciplinary collaboration and involving the patient and his family in the decision-making process. The most important barriers were shortages in staff and the perceived difficulty or resistance of the nursing home resident's family - or the resident himself.
Conclusion and implications of key findings: The scarcity of findings in the literature highlights the importance of filling this gap. Further research should focus on deepening the knowledge on these barriers/enablers in order to develop sustainable multifaceted deprescribing interventions in palliative care.
BACKGROUND: Research suggests that palliative home care should be integrated early into standard care for end-stage COPD patients. Patients also express the wish to be cared for and to die at home. However, a practice model for early integration of palliative home care (PHC) into standard care for end-stage COPD has not been fully developed.
AIM: To develop an intervention for early integration of PHC into standard care for end-stage COPD patients.
METHODS: We conducted a Phase 0-I study according to the Medical Research Council Framework for the development of complex interventions. Phase 0 aimed to identify the inclusion criteria and key components of the intervention by way of an explorative literature search of interventions, expert consultations, and seven focus groups with general practitioners and community nurses on perceived barriers to and facilitators of early integrated PHC for COPD. In Phase 1, the intervention, its inclusion criteria and its components were developed and further refined by an expert panel and two expert opinions.
RESULTS: Phase 0 resulted in identification of inclusion criteria and components from existing interventions, and barriers to and facilitators of early integration of PHC for end-stage COPD. Based on these findings, a nurse-led intervention was developed in Phase I consisting of training for PHC nurses in symptom recognition and physical therapy exercises for end-stage COPD, regular visits by PHC nurses at the patients' homes, two information leaflets on self-management, a semi-structured protocol and follow-up plan to record the outcomes of the home visits, and integration of care by enabling collaboration and communication between home and hospital-based professional caregivers.
CONCLUSION: This Phase 0-I trial succeeded in developing a complex intervention for early integration of PHC for end-stage COPD. The use of three methods in Phase 0 gave reliable data on which to base inclusion criteria and components of the intervention. The preliminary effectiveness, feasibility and acceptability of the intervention will be subsequently tested in a Phase II study.
BACKGROUND: To date, no randomised controlled trials on the integration of specialised palliative home care into oncology care have been identified. Information on whether existing models of integrated care are applicable to the home care system and how working procedures and skills of the palliative care teams might require adaptation is missing.
AIM: To gain insight into differences between early and late involvement and the effect on existing working procedures and skills as perceived by palliative home care teams.
DESIGN: Qualitative study - focus group interviews.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Six palliative home care teams in Flanders, Belgium. Participants included physicians, nurses and psychologists.
RESULTS: Differences were found concerning (1) reasons for initiation, (2) planning of care process, (3) focus on future goals versus problems, (4) opportunity to provide holistic care, (5) empowerment of patients and (6) empowerment of professional caregivers. A shift from a medical approach to a more holistic approach is the most noticeable. Being involved earlier also results in a more structured follow-up and in empowering the patient to be part of the decision-making process. Early involvement creates the need for transmural collaboration, which leads to the teams taking on more supporting and coordinating tasks.
DISCUSSION: Being involved earlier leads to different tasks and working procedures and to the need for transmural collaboration. Future research might focus on the development of an intervention model for the early integration of palliative home care into oncology care. To develop this model, components of existing models might need to be adapted or extended.
BACKGROUND: The benefit of early integration of palliative care into oncological care is suggested to be due to increased psychosocial support. In Belgium, psychosocial care is part of standard oncological care. The aim of this randomised controlled trial is to examine whether early and systematic integration of palliative care alongside standard psychosocial oncological care provides added benefit compared with usual care.
METHODS: In this randomised controlled trial, eligible patients were 18 years or older, and had advanced cancer due to a solid tumour, an European Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0-2, an estimated life expectancy of 12 months, and were within the first 12 weeks of a new primary tumour or had a diagnosis of progression. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1), by block design using a computer-generated sequence, either to early and systematic integration of palliative care into oncological care, or standard oncological care alone in a setting where all patients are offered multidisciplinary oncology care by medical specialists, psychologists, social workers, dieticians, and specialist nurses. The primary endpoint was change in global health status/quality of life scale assessed by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 30 items (EORTC QLQ C30) at 12 weeks. The McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire (MQOL), which includes the additional existential wellbeing dimension, was also used. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is ongoing, but closed for accrual, and is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01865396.
FINDINGS: From April 29, 2013, to Feb 29, 2016, we screened 468 patients for eligibility, of whom 186 were enrolled and randomly assigned to the early and systematic palliative care group (92 patients) or the standard oncological care group (94). Compliance at 12 weeks was 71% (65 patients) in the intervention group versus 72% (68) in the control group. The overall quality of life score at 12 weeks, by the EORTC QLQ C30, was 54·39 (95% CI 49·23-59·56) in the standard oncological care group versus 61·98 (57·02-66·95) in the early and systematic palliative care group (difference 7·60 [95% CI 0·59-14·60]; p=0·03); and by the MQOL Single Item Scale, 5·94 (95% CI 5·50-6·39) in the standard oncological care group versus 7·05 (6·59-7·50) in the early and systematic palliative care group (difference 1·11 [95% CI 0·49-1·73]; p=0.0006).
INTERPRETATION: The findings of this study show that a model of early and systematic integration of palliative care in oncological care increases the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer. Our findings also show that early and systematic integration of palliative care is more beneficial for patients with advanced cancer than palliative care consultations offered on demand, even when psychosocial support has already been offered. Through integration of care, oncologists and specialised palliative care teams should work together to enhance the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer.
FUNDING: Research Foundation Flanders, Flemish Cancer Society (Kom Op Tegen Kanker).
BACKGROUND: Information on medication use in the last months of life is limited.
AIM: To describe which medications are prescribed and deprescribed in advanced cancer patients receiving palliative care in relation to time before death and to explore associations with demographic variables.
DESIGN: Prospective study, using case report forms for monthly data collection. Medication included cancer treatment and 19 therapeutic groups, grouped into four categories for: (1) cancer therapy, (2) specific cancer-related symptom relief, (3) other symptom relief and (4) long-term prevention. Data were analysed retrospectively using death as the index date. We compared medication use at 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 month(s) before death by constructing five cross-sectional subsamples with medication use during that month. Paired analyses were done on a subsample of patients with at least two assessments before death.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: We studied the medication use of 720 patients (mean age 67, 56% male) in 30 cancer centres representing 12 countries.
RESULTS: From 5 to 1 month(s) before death, cancer therapy decreased (55%-24%), most medications for symptom relief increased, for example, opioids (62%-81%) and sedatives (35%-46%), but medication for long-term prevention decreased (38%-27%). The prevalence of chemotherapy was 15.5% in the last month of life, with 9% of new courses started in the last 2 months. With higher age, chemotherapy and opioid use decreased.
CONCLUSION: Medications for symptom relief increased in almost all medication groups. Deprescribing was found in heart medication/anti-hypertensives and cancer therapy, although use of the latter remained relatively high.
Les auteurs ont examiné dans quelle mesure les patients nouvellement diagnostiqués avec un cancer du poumon avancé voulaient être informés et
impliqués dans la prise de décision médicale. L'étude a aussi cherché à savoir si les patients sentaient que leurs préférences avaient été respectées. Pour cela, des patients de 13 hôpitaux en Flandre ont été interrogés.
L'étude conclue que les préférences de ces patients concernant les informations sur des sujets délicats et une prise de décision partagée avec le médecin n'étaient pas été bien remplies.