Background: Although palliative care consultation is recommended early in the course of oncology treatment, little evidence exists to guide the nature of this intervention. We describe a clinical practice of early palliative care consultation that improved quality of life, mood, and survival in a randomized clinical trial.
Methods: As part of a randomized trial of early palliative care versus standard care in patients with newly diagnosed metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), we analyzed documentation of the components of the initial palliative care consultation, self-reported quality of life as measured by the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Lung Trial Outcome Index (FACT-L TOI), and mood as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9).
Results: Seven palliative care clinicians provided consultation to 67 patients. The median total time spent with patients for the initial visit was 55 minutes (range, 20-120). Consultations focused on symptom management (median, 20 minutes; range, 0-75), patient and family coping (median, 15 minutes; range, 0-78), and illness understanding and education (median, 10 minutes; range, 0-35). Lower quality of life as measured by the FACT-L TOI predicted greater consultation time (odds ratio [OR] 0.95, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.91-0.99). Additionally, lower quality of life scores on the FACT-L TOI (OR = 0.93, 95% CI = 0.88-0.97) and higher depression scores on the PHQ-9 (OR = 1.15, 95% CI = 1.02-1.31) predicted greater time spent on symptom management.
Conclusions: Initial palliative care consultation near the time of diagnosis in patients with metastatic NSCLC in this intervention is nearly an hour in length and largely addresses symptom management, patient and family coping, and illness understanding and education. Lower quality of life predicted longer consultations, with more time dedicated specifically to symptom management.