Early introduction of palliative care and advanced care planning for children with complex chronic medical conditions: a pilot study

Liberman, D. B.; Song, E.; Radbill, L. M.; Pham, P. K.; Derrington, S. F.

Child Care Health Dev. 2016 Mar 31; 42(3):439-49

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Children with complex chronic medical conditions benefit from early introduction of palliative care services and advanced care planning for symptom management and to support quality of life and medical decision-making. This study evaluated whether introducing palliative care during primary care appointments (1) was feasible; (2) increased access and improved knowledge of palliative care; and (3) facilitated advanced care planning. METHODS: Pilot study of a multi-modal intervention including targeted education for primary care providers (PCPs), an informational packet for families and presence of a palliative care team member in the outpatient clinic. PCPs completed pre- and post-surveys assessing experience, knowledge and comfort with palliative care. Enrolled families received an information packet; a subset also met a palliative care team member. All families were encouraged to make an appointment with the palliative care team, during which the team assessed palliative care needs and goals of care. Upon study completion, the investigators assessed family and PCP satisfaction and collected feedback on project feasibility. RESULTS: Twenty families were enrolled and received the information packet; 15 met a palliative care team member. Of the 17 participating families who were reached and completed a post-study survey, 11 families had never heard of palliative care and 13 were unaware that the palliative care team existed. Most families perceived palliative care information as 'very helpful' and 'very important'. All would recommend palliative care team services to others. Nine families followed up with the palliative care team, but none was prepared to complete an advanced care plan. PCPs reported lack of training in communicating bad news and conducting goals of care discussions. However, they felt increasingly comfortable introducing palliative care to families and supported program continuation. CONCLUSIONS: Initiating palliative care services in the outpatient primary care setting is logistically challenging but increases access to palliative care for children with complex chronic medical conditions and improves palliative care knowledge and comfort for PCPs.

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