Applying the Delphi process to palliative care tool development: lessons learned

Support Care Cancer. 2008 Aug;16(8):935-42. doi: 10.1007/s00520-007-0348-2. Epub 2007 Oct 30.


Background: The Delphi technique is an effective method for collecting and synthesizing informed opinions on a highly focused task, from a diverse group of experts who have specialized knowledge in an area of interest. This method has been successfully applied to palliative care research but not commonly to palliative care tool development. The Delphi technique has recently been employed in the development of two palliative pain assessment tools: the Edmonton Classification System for Cancer Pain (ECS-CP) and the Alberta Breakthrough Pain Assessment Tool for Research (ABPAT-R).

Aims: The purpose of this paper is to: (a) report on our experience of using the Delphi technique for gathering validity evidence for the ECS-CP and ABPAT-R; (b) identify challenges in using this technique including sampling, study and survey design, consensus setting and response rates; and (c) suggest approaches that can add to its effectiveness in national and international collaborations in palliative care instrument development and research.

Conclusions: Depending on the design, the Delphi technique can facilitate national or international cooperation both asynchronously (e.g., with mail-out or electronic surveys) and synchronously (e.g., with face-to-face meetings or videoconferencing). International input can assure palliative care tools are relevant in diverse clinical settings and practice cultures. The use of the Delphi technique in palliative care tool development may thereby facilitate international collaborations, rapid knowledge transfer, and effective uptake of novel tools across diverse palliative care settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Delphi Technique*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Palliative Care / methods*