Patient perceptions of an outpatient palliative care intervention: "It had been on my mind before, but I did not know how to start talking about death..."

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2003 Nov;26(5):1010-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2003.03.002.


Little is known about whether introducing palliative care to seriously ill outpatients continuing to pursue treatment of their disease is acceptable or beneficial to patients. Intervention patients in a trial of outpatient palliative care consultation completed structured exit interviews as part of a qualitative study. Participants had advanced heart or lung disease or cancer, and a life expectancy between 1 to 5 years as estimated by their primary care physician (PCP). Thirty-five of 50 intervention patients (70%) completed the final interview. Twenty-one patients (60%) reported that the team uncovered previously undiagnosed medical problems, 12 patients (34.3%) reported decreased primary care visits, and 8 (22.9%) reported avoiding emergency department visits. Most patients reported improved satisfaction with family caregivers (85.7%), PCPs (80%), and the medical center (65.7%). Most patients (68.6%) would have wanted the intervention even earlier in the course of their illness. Seriously ill outpatients found palliative care acceptable and helpful, reporting increased satisfaction and decreased health care utilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Death*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Care Team