Delivery strategies to optimize resource utilization and performance status for patients with advanced life-limiting illness: results from the "palliative care trial" [ISRCTN 81117481]

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2013 Mar;45(3):488-505. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2012.02.024. Epub 2012 Oct 24.


Context: Evidence-based approaches are needed to improve the delivery of specialized palliative care.

Objectives: The aim of this trial was to improve on current models of service provision.

Methods: This 2×2×2 factorial cluster randomized controlled trial was conducted at an Australian community-based palliative care service, allowing three simultaneous comparative effectiveness studies. Participating patients were newly referred adults, experiencing pain, and who were expected to live >48 hours. Patients enrolled with their general practitioners (GPs) and were randomized three times: 1) individualized interdisciplinary case conference including their GP vs. control, 2) educational outreach visiting for GPs about pain management vs. control, and 3) structured educational visiting for patients/caregivers about pain management vs. control. The control condition was current palliative care. Outcomes included Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Status (AKPS) and pain from 60 days after randomization and hospitalizations.

Results: There were 461 participants: mean age 71 years, 50% male, 91% with cancer, median survival 179 days, and median baseline AKPS 60. Only 47% of individuals randomized to the case conferencing intervention received it; based on a priori-defined analyses, 32% of participants were included in final analyses. Case conferencing reduced hospitalizations by 26% (least squares means hospitalizations per patient: case conference 1.26 [SE 0.10] vs. control 1.70 [SE 0.13], P=0.0069) and better maintained performance status (AKPS case conferences 57.3 [SE 1.5] vs. control 51.7 [SE 2.3], P=0.0368). Among patients with declining function (AKPS <70), case conferencing and patient/caregiver education better maintained performance status (AKPS case conferences 55.0 [SE 2.1] vs. control 46.5 [SE 2.9], P=0.0143; patient/caregiver education 54.7 [SE 2.8] vs. control 46.8 [SE 2.1], P=0.0206). Pain was unchanged. GP education did not change outcomes.

Conclusion: A single case conference added to current specialized community-based palliative care reduced hospitalizations and better maintained performance status. Comparatively, patient/caregiver education was less effective; GP education was not effective.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / mortality*
  • Chronic Disease / nursing*
  • Chronic Pain / mortality*
  • Chronic Pain / nursing*
  • Chronic Pain / prevention & control
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Health Care Rationing / methods
  • Health Care Rationing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement / statistics & numerical data
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • Terminal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Utilization Review