Background.Palliative care (PC) referrals are often delayed for patients with hematologic malignancies. We examined the differences in attitudes and beliefs toward PC referral between hematologic and solid tumor specialists and how their perception changed with use of the service name “supportive care” (SC).Materials and Methods.We randomly surveyed 120 hematologic and 120 solid tumor oncology specialists at our tertiary care cancer center to examine their attitudes and beliefs toward PC and SC referral.Results.Of the 240 specialists, 182 (76%) responded. Compared with solid tumor specialists, hematologic specialists were less likely to report that they would refer symptomatic patients with newly diagnosed cancer to PC (solid tumor, 43% vs. hematology, 21%; p = .002). A significantly greater proportion of specialists expressed that they would refer a patient with newly diagnosed cancer to SC than PC (solid tumor specialists: SC, 81% vs. PC, 43%; p < .001; hematology specialists: SC, 66% vs. PC, 21%; p < .001). The specialists perceived that PC was more likely than SC to be a barrier for referral (PC, 36% vs. SC, 3%; p < .001), to be synonymous with hospice (PC, 53% vs. SC, 6%; p < .001), to decrease hope (PC, 58% vs. SC, 8%; p < .001), and to be less appropriate for treatment of chemotherapy side effects (PC, 64% vs. SC, 19%; p < .001). On multivariate analysis, female clinicians (odds ratio [OR], 4.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-15.2; p = .02) and the perception that PC is a barrier for referral (OR, 3.0; 95% CI, 1.2-7.6; p = .02) were associated with PC referral if the service name "SC" was used.Conclusion.Hematologic specialists were less likely to refer patients early in the disease trajectory and were conducive to referral with the service name SC instead of PC.Implications for PracticeThe present survey of oncology specialists found that hematologic specialists were less likely than solid tumor specialists to report that they would refer symptomatic patients with newly diagnosed cancer to palliative care. However, both groups were significantly more willing to refer patients early in the disease trajectory if the service name "supportive care" were used instead of "palliative care." These findings suggest that rebranding might help to overcome the stigma associated with palliative care and improve patient access to palliative care services.
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[Source: The Oncologist Subject Collection: Symptom Management and Supportive Care]

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