Efficacy of models of palliative care delivered beyond the traditional physician-led, subspecialty consultation service model: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2022 Apr 19:bmjspcare-2021-003507. doi: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2021-003507. Online ahead of print.


Objective: This meta-analysis aimed to determine the effectiveness of non-physician provider-led palliative care (PC) interventions in the management of adults with advanced illnesses on patient-reported outcomes and advance care planning (ACP).

Methods: We included randomised trials and cluster trials published in MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials and ClinicalTrials.gov searched until July 2021 that examined individuals ≥18 years with a diagnosis of advanced, life-limiting illness and received a PC intervention led by a non-physician (nurse, advance practitioner or social worker). Our primary outcome was quality of life (QOL), which was extracted as unadjusted or adjusted estimates and measures of variability. Secondary outcomes included anxiety, depression and ACP.

Results: Among the 21 studies (2370 subjects), 13 included patients with cancer, 3 with heart failure, 4 with chronic respiratory disease and 1 with chronic kidney disease. The interventions were diverse and varied with respect to team composition and services offered. For QOL, the standardised mean differences suggested null effects of PC interventions compared with usual care at 1-2 months (0.04; 95% CI=-0.14 to 0.23, n=10 randomised controlled trials (RCTs)) and 6-7 months (0.10; 95% CI=-0.15 to 0.34, n=6 RCTs). The results for anxiety and depression were not significant also. For the ACP, there was a strong benefit for the PC intervention (absolute increase of 0.32% (95% CI=0.06 to 0.57).

Conclusions: In this meta-analysis, PC interventions delivered by non-physician were not associated with improvement in QOL, anxiety or depression but demonstrated an impact on the ACP discussion and documentation.

Keywords: chronic conditions; other cancer; quality of life; supportive care.