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VA Survey of Relatives Measures End-of-Life Quality

Higher scores associated with palliative care, hospice care; worse scores linked to dying in intensive care unit

FRIDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Palliative care consultations and hospice referral were associated with higher family satisfaction following the death of a loved one, according to research published in the Aug. 10 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Esme Finlay, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues analyzed data from the Family Assessment of Treatment at End of Life (FATE) survey, part of a Veterans Affairs initiative to assess quality of care at the end of life. Participants were the next of kin of 262 deceased cancer patients, who completed FATE interviews by telephone.

Patients who had a palliative care consultation, those who had hospice care, and those who received a Do Not Resuscitate order before death had better scores than those who didn't, the researchers report. However, those who died in intensive care or were mechanically ventilated on the day of death had worse scores than other patients.

"The American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and the Institute of Medicine all recognize palliative care and psychosocial support as key components of quality cancer care. Because many oncologists care for their patients across the course of disease, when cure is not possible, delivery of high-quality end-of-life care is important. Tools like the FATE-S [a shortened version] have the potential to guide efforts to improve such care for patients with cancer by helping to define undesirable variations in quality and by identifying structures and processes that are associated with better family perceptions of care," the authors write.

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