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This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in: Journal of Palliative Medicine.

Volume 16, Issue 7, 1 July 2013, Pages 786-789.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1089/jpm.2012.0487

Copyright © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.


OBJECTIVE: To describe a quality improvement project involving education and referral criteria to influence oncology provider referrals to a palliative care service.

METHODS: A single group post-test only quasi-experimental design was used to evaluate palliative care service (PCS) referrals following an intervention consisting of a didactic presentation, education outreach visits (EOV) to key providers, and referral criteria. Data on patient demographics, cancer types, consult volume, reasons for referral, pre-consult length of stay, overall hospital stay, and discharge disposition were collected pre-intervention, then post-intervention for 7.5 months and compared.

SETTING AND SAMPLE: Attending oncologists, nurse practitioner, and house staff from the solid tumor division at a 700-bed urban teaching hospital participated in the project. Two geriatricians, a palliative care nurse practitioner, and rotating geriatric fellows staffed the PCS.

RESULTS: The percentage of oncology referrals to PCS increased significantly following the intervention (χ(2) = 6.108, p = .013). 24.9% (390) patients were referred in the 4.6 years pre-intervention and 31.5% (106) patients were referred during 7.5 months post-intervention. The proportion of consults for pain management was significantly greater post-intervention (χ(2) = 5.378, p = .02), compared to pre-intervention, when most referrals were related to end-of-life issues. Lung, pancreatic, and colon were the most common cancer types at both periods, and there were no significant differences in patient demographics, pre-referral length of hospitalization or overall hospital days. There was a trend toward more patients being discharged alive following the intervention.

CONCLUSION: A quality improvement project supported the use of education and referral criteria to influence both the frequency and reasons for palliative care referral by oncology providers.

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