Study aim: Many quality-of-life assessment tools are not feasible in palliative care settings because of the severe impairment of the physical, cognitive, and psychological status of patients. This study investigated whether comprehensive instruments can be replaced by a single item concerning the well-being of patients.
Methods: From April to December 2008 patients receiving palliative care in three different settings (palliative care unit, inpatient unit of the department of radiotherapy, inpatient hospice) were asked to answer the assessment tools Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Treatment (FACIT-G), European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC-QLQ-C30), Schedule for the Evaluation of the Individual Quality of Life (SEIQoL), and the Minimal Documentation System (MIDOS) including a single item on well-being. Correlations of sum and specific domain scores were used for correlational analysis.
Results: Datasets of 72 patients were collected. The MIDOS single item on well-being correlated significantly with the QoL indexes of the EORTC (Spearman rank correlation r = -0.563) and FACIT-G (0.527). SEIQoL had low to moderate correlations with the other assessment tools. Subscales on physical functioning from the FACIT-G (r = 0.583) and the EORTC-QLQ-C30 (r = 0.385) had the highest correlation with the single item on well-being. Well-being correlated higher with nonphysical subscales of the QoL instruments for patients in the palliative care unit than in the radiotherapy department.
Conclusions: The single item is unable to completely replace comprehensive questionnaires, but it is useful to initiate communication on QoL and can be recommended as a substitute for physical-functional aspects of QoL assessment in the palliative care setting.