Purpose: Veterans with advanced cancer can receive hospice care concurrently with treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. However, variations exist in concurrent care use across Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers (VAMCs), and overall, concurrent care use is relatively rare. In this qualitative study, we aimed to identify, describe, and explain factors that influence the provision of concurrent cancer care (defined as chemotherapy or radiation treatments provided with hospice) for veterans with terminal cancer.
Methods: From August 2015 to April 2016, we conducted six site visits and interviewed 76 clinicians and staff at six VA sites and their contracted community hospices, including community hospices (n = 16); VA oncology (n = 25); VA palliative care (n = 17); and VA inpatient hospice and palliative care units (n = 18).
Results: Thematic qualitative content analysis found three themes that influenced the provision of concurrent care: (1) clinicians and staff at community hospices and at VAs viewed concurrent care as a viable care option, as it preserved hope and relationships while patient goals are clarified during transitions to hospice; and (2) the presence of dedicated liaisons facilitated care coordination and education about concurrent care; however, (3) clinicians and staff concerns about Medicare guideline compliance hindered use of concurrent care.
Conclusions: While concurrent care is used by a small number of veterans with advanced cancer, VA staff valued having the option available and as a bridge to hospice. Hospice staff felt concurrent care improved care coordination with VAMCs, but use may be tempered due to concerns related to Medicare compliance.
Keywords: Cancer; Concurrent care; Hospice; Palliative care; Veterans.