Comparison of Two Methods for Implementing Comfort Care Order Sets in the Inpatient Setting: a Cluster Randomized Trial

J Gen Intern Med. 2021 Jul;36(7):1928-1936. doi: 10.1007/s11606-020-06482-x. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


Background: There is an ongoing need for interventions to improve quality of end-of-life care for patients in inpatient settings.

Objective: To compare two methods for implementing a Comfort Care Education Intervention for Palliative Care Consultation Teams (PCCT) in Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs).

Design: Cluster randomized implementation trial conducted March 2015-April 2019. PCCTs were assigned to a traditional implementation approach using a teleconference or to an in-person, train-the-champion workshop to prepare PCCTs to be clinical champions at their home sites.

Participants: One hundred thirty-two providers from PCCTs at 47 VAMCs.

Interventions: Both training modalities involved review of educational materials, instruction on using an electronic Comfort Care Order Set, and coaching to deliver the intervention to other providers.

Main measurements: Several processes of care were identified a priori as quality endpoints for end-of-life care (last 7 days) and abstracted from medical records of veterans who died within 9 months before or after implementation (n = 6,491). The primary endpoint was the presence of an active order for opioid medication at time of death. Secondary endpoints were orders/administration of antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and scopolamine, do-not-resuscitate orders, advance directives, locations of death, palliative care consultations, nasogastric tubes, intravenous lines, physical restraints, pastoral care visits, and family presence at/near time of death. Generalized estimating equations were conducted adjusting for potential covariates.

Key results: Eighty-eight providers from 23 VAMCs received teleconference training; 44 providers from 23 VAMCs received in-person workshop training. Analyses found no significant differences between intervention groups in any process-of-care endpoints (primary endpoint AOR (CI) = 1.18 (0.74, 1.89). Furthermore, pre-post changes were not significant for any endpoints (primary endpoint AOR (CI) = 1.16 (0.92, 1.46). Analyses may have been limited by high baseline values on key endpoints with little room for improvement.

Conclusion: Findings suggest the clinical effectiveness of palliative care educational intervention was not dependent on which of the two implementation methods was used.

Trial registration: identifier: NCT02383173.

Keywords: Veterans; educational intervention; end-of-life care; implementation; inpatient; palliative care; training/education.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Advance Directives
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Palliative Care*
  • Patient Comfort
  • Terminal Care*

Associated data