CONTEXT: Patients with cancer experience many symptoms that disrupt quality of life, and symptom communication and management can be challenging. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) was developed to standardize assessment and documentation of symptoms, yet research is needed to understand patients' and caregivers' experiences using the tool and its ability to impact patient-provider aligned care.
OBJECTIVES: To understand how the ESAS shapes communication between patients and providers by exploring patients' and caregivers' experiences using the ESAS and assessing the level of agreement in symptom assessment between patients and palliative care physicians.
METHODS: This study utilized a mixed-methods design. 31 semi-structured interviews were conducted and audio-recorded with patients (n = 18) and caregivers (n = 13). Data were analyzed following a social constructionist grounded theory approach. Patient and provider ESAS scores were obtained by medical chart review. Intraclass Correlation Coefficients (ICCs) were used to assess the level of agreement between patient-completed ESAS scores and provider-completed ESAS scores.
RESULTS: Participants reported that the ESAS was a beneficial tool in establishing priorities for symptom control and guiding the appointment with the palliative care physician, despite challenges in completing the ESAS. Filling out the ESAS can also help patients more clearly identify their priorities before meeting with their physician. There was a good to excellent level of agreement between patients and physicians in all symptoms analyzed.
CONCLUSION: The ESAS is beneficial in enhancing symptom communication when used as a guide to identify and understand patients' main concerns.