Revisiting Early Palliative Care for Patients With Hematologic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplant: Why the Delay?

Cureus. 2020 Sep 17;12(9):e10504. doi: 10.7759/cureus.10504.

Abstract

Palliative care has been defined as specialized care for patients facing serious illnesses. Despite advancements in the field and studies documenting the effectiveness of early palliative care (PC) interventions in seriously ill patients, the fields of hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplant still lag behind of a comprehensive framework for early and effective interventions. The aim of this literature review is to analyze and discuss the possible barriers to care and delayed referrals for hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplant patients. Using the EBSCO and PubMed databases, articles regarding PC among patients with hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplant were analyzed. There are three main domains with its respective barriers in PC: physicians, patients and caregivers, and the healthcare system. Issues that were identified included the lack of knowledge and misconceptions about PC among physicians, patients, and caregivers, delayed referral of patients with hematologic malignancies, unrealistic treatment expectations, lack of communication between specialties, difficulties with appointment availability, geographical distance between clinics, and lack of insurance coverage for PC services. We suggest possible alternatives including obligatory continuing medical education (CME) credits, loan forgiveness, rotations during residency and fellowship training, use of informational videos and pamphlets to educate patients and caregivers, obligatory early consults despite prognosis, an algorithm to evaluate patient's needs, creating a platform within electronic medical records (EMR) systems shared by specialties, and having PC service in every cancer center. Findings suggest a need for further studies aimed towards implementing solutions to increase the early referral of patients with hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplantation (BMT) to palliative care.

Keywords: bone marrow transplant; hematologic malignancy; palliative care; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review