Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Salvage Hearing In Some Sensorineural Loss Cases

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Tae-Min Rhee, M.D.
Chief of Undersea and Diving Medicine,
Underwater Medical Institute,
National Maritime Medical Center,
Republic of Korea Navy, Changwon
Republic of Korea

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) has an incidence of 5 to 20 per 100,000 person-years in the general population and sometimes results in permanent deafness followed by considerable socio-economic costs. The causes of SSNHL are often unclear, and in these cases there are no treatment of choice that is proven to be effective. In addition, spontaneous recovery is not uncommon in SSNHL, making it difficult to predict the natural course of the disease, and thus a well-controlled clinical trial is rare in spite of its clinical significance.

Many treatment options (systemic or intratympanic steroids, antiviral agents, vasodilators, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy) have been suggested and tried to date, but only systemic steroid therapy has been the most effective among them. However, for the cases with contraindications to steroids, or steroid-refractory SSNHL, there is paucity of information on the second line treatment option.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), i.e., high-pressurized oxygen therapy, is a method of treating patients within a chamber saturated with 100% oxygen maintained at a high pressure of 2.0 to 2.5 atm. Cochlea is an organ that relies more on the diffusion of oxygen than the direct vascular supply, and thus it is known to be vulnerable to ischemia. Since this is suggested as one of the main pathophysiology of SSNHL, we wanted to prove the hypothesis that, by providing high-pressure oxygen, the partial pressure of oxygen delivered to the inner ear is maximized, and the additional or complementary therapeutic effects can be observed. A number of reports have been published for 20 years, but there is no systematically organized evidence except a Cochrane Review in 2012. Therefore, our research team tried to integrate the evidence through a comprehensive meta-analysis and to provide important clues for further research.  Continue reading

Mindfulness Training Helped Patients & Caregivers Cope with End of Life Care Issues

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ann Cottingham

Ann H Cottingham

Ann H Cottingham MA MAR
Indiana University School of Medicine
Indianapolis,IN.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Advance care planning provides patients with cancer an opportunity to reflect on future care and treatment options with their physician and family and identify and document their preferences in preparation for a time when they may be unable to speak for themselves. Advance care planning increases both quality of life and satisfaction with care, however the majority of patients with cancer have not participated in these important conversations. Common emotional responses to cancer, such as feelings of anxiety, fear, and sadness, pose one barrier to planning as they can keep patients from thinking about or discussing sensitive topics related to their illness.

We conducted a pilot study to explore whether training in mindfulness, the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present, could enhance the ability of patients and families to consider and discuss emotionally challenging topics — such as end-of-life preparations — and support timely advance care planning. Twelve patient-family caregiver pairs participated in a pilot study of Mindfully Optimizing Delivery of End-of-Life (MODEL) Care, which combined mindfulness meditation, mindful communication practices, and information about advance care planning. MODEL Care focused on developing emotional and communication capacities to enable patients and their family caregivers to respond to the experience of living with advanced cancer and to talk about the disease and future care preferences with greater ease.

The study found that MODEL Care successfully supported patients and their family caregivers in thinking about and then talking about the care they would want to receive if they become unable to speak for themselves, enhancing their ability to respond to emotional challenges, and decreasing barriers to end-of-life planning.

MODEL Care improved patient and caregiver ability to cope, lowered emotional reactivity, and enhanced ability to respond to issues that incited emotion. It also strengthened the patient-caregiver relationship and enhanced communication with each other. MODEL Care also improved both patient and family caregiver communication with the physicians caring for the patient.   Patients noted that the practices enabled them to cope more effectively with the symptoms of their disease, including pain. Caregivers reported changes in their loved one’s ability to cope with their disease following the mindfulness sessions. Continue reading

Predicting Death is Difficult, Making it Difficult To Save Money on End of Life Care

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Amy Finkelstein PhD John & Jennie S. MacDonald Professor of Economics MIT Department of Economics National Bureau of Economic Research Cambridge MA 02139 

Dr. Finkelstein

Amy Finkelstein PhD
John & Jennie S. MacDonald Professor of Economics
MIT Department of Economics
National Bureau of Economic Research
Cambridge MA 02139 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Although only 5% of Medicare beneficiaries die in a given year, they account for almost 25% of Medciare spending.

This fact about high end of life spending has been constantly used to refer to inefficiency of the US healthcare system. A natural observation is that the fact is retrospective, and it motivated us to explore a prospective analog, which would take as an input the probability of someone dying in a given year rather than her realized outcome. We therefore used machine learning techniques to predict death, and somewhat to our surprise we found that at least using standardized and detailed claims-level data, predicting death is difficult, and there are only a tiny fraction of Medicare beneficiaries for whom we can predict death (within a year) with near certainty.

Those who end up dying are obviously sicker, and our study finds that up to half of the higher spending on those who die could be attributed to the fact that those who die are sicker and sick individuals are associated with higher spending.   Continue reading

Family-Support Intervention in ICUs Increased Patient Comfort and Reduced Costs

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Douglas B. White, M.D., M.A.S. Director of the Clinical Research Investigation and Systems Modeling of Acute Illness (CRISMA) Center’s Program on  Ethics and Decision Making in  Department of Critical Care Medicine University of Pittsburgh 

Dr. White

Douglas B. White, M.D., M.A.S.
Director of the Clinical Research Investigation and Systems Modeling of Acute Illness (CRISMA) Center’s Program on
Ethics and Decision Making in  Department of Critical Care Medicine
University of Pittsburgh 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? 

Response: We set out to test the effectiveness of PARTNER (PAiring Re-engineered ICU Teams with Nurse-driven Emotional Support and Relationship-building). PARTNER is delivered by the interprofessional team in the ICU, consisting of nurses, physicians, spiritual care providers, social workers and others who play a part in patient care. The program is overseen by nurse-leaders in each ICU who receive 12 hours of advanced communication skills training to support families. The nurses meet with the families daily and arrange interdisciplinary clinician-family meetings within 48 hours of a patient coming to the ICU. A quality improvement specialist helps to incorporate the family support intervention into the clinicians’ workflow.

PARTNER was rolled out at five UPMC ICUs with different patient populations and staffing. It was implemented in a staggered fashion so that every participating ICU would eventually get PARTNER. Before receiving PARTNER, the ICUs continued their usual methods of supporting families of hospitalized patients. None of the ICUs had a set approach to family communication or required family meetings at regular intervals before receiving PARTNER. A total of 1,420 adult patients were enrolled in the trial, and 1,106 of these patients’ family members agreed to be a part of the study and its six-month follow-up surveys. The patients were very sick, with about 60 percent dying within six months of hospitalization and less than 1 percent living independently at home at that point.

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Rate of End-of-Life Medicare Spending Falls

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

William B Weeks, MD, PhD, MBA The Dartmouth Institute

Dr. Weeks

William B Weeks, MD, PhD, MBA
The Dartmouth Institute

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The background for the study is that a common narrative is that end-of-life healthcare costs are driving overall healthcare cost growth.  Growth in end-of-life care has been shown, in research studies through the mid 2000’s, to be attributable to increasing intensity of care at the end-of-life (i.e., more hospitalizations and more use of ICUs).

The main findings of our study are that indeed there have been substantial increases in per-capita end-of-life care costs within the Medicare fee-for-service population between 2004-2009, but those per-capita costs dropped pretty substantially between 2009-2014.  Further, the drop in per-capita costs attributable to Medicare patients who died (and were, therefore, at the end-of-life) accounts for much of the mitigation in cost growth that has been found since 2009 in the overall Medicare fee-for-service population.

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Legal Rights Don’t Guarantee Right To Die

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Mara Buchbinder, PhD Associate Professor Department of Social Medicine University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240 

Dr. Buchbinder

Mara Buchbinder, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Social Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The legal landscape of medical aid-in-dying in the United States is changing rapidly. Just a few weeks ago, Hawaii became the 8th jurisdiction in the US to permit a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient for the purpose of ending the patient’s life.

However, even in states where aid-in-dying is legal, patients still face substantial barriers to access. The Vermont Study on Aid-in-Dying, a qualitative, descriptive study of the implementation of Vermont’s assisted dying statute, found that patients encounter barriers concerning the safeguards built into the law, the cost of medication, the ability to find a physician willing to prescribe, and knowledge about the law.

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Palliative Care of Sickest Patients Improves Quality of Life, But Does it Save Money?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

R. Sean Morrison, MD Ellen and Howard C. Katz Professor and Chair Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York, NY 10029

Dr. Morrison

R. Sean Morrison, MD
Ellen and Howard C. Katz Professor and Chair
Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, NY 10029

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Palliative care is team based care that is focused on improving quality of life and reducing suffering for persons with serious illness and their families.  It can be provided at any age and in concert with all other appropriate medical treatments.  Palliative care has been shown to improve patient quality of life, patient and family satisfaction, and in diseases like cancer and heart failure, improve survival.  A number of individual studies have shown that palliative care can reduce costs by providing the right care to the right people at the right time.

This study pooled data from six existing studies to quantify the magnitude of savings that high quality palliative care provides.
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Decision Aids Can Help Heart Failure Patients Determine If They Want an LVAD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) pumping blood from the left ventricle to the aorta, connected to an externally worn control unit and battery pack. Wikipedia image

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) pumping blood from the left ventricle to the aorta, connected to an externally worn control unit and battery pack.
Wikipedia image

Larry A. Allen, MD, MHS
Associate Professor, Medicine
Associate Head for Clinical Affairs, Cardiology
Medical Director, Advanced Heart Failure
Aurora, CO 80045

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Deciding whether or not to get a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is one of the most challenging medical decisions created by modern medicine.

LVADs improve overall survival but also come with serious risks and lifestyle changes. Particularly for older patients with multiple medical problems, this is a complex choice.

Our research group at the University of Colorado spent years systematically developing unbiased pamphlet and video decision aids for patients and caregivers. We also developed a clinician-directed decision support training for LVAD program staff. The DECIDE-LVAD trial studied the implementation and effectiveness of this decision support intervention with patients and their caregivers in 6 hospitals in the U.S. When compared to previously used education materials, the decision aids appeared to improve patients’ decision quality and lowered the total number of patients getting LVADs.

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Hypoglycemia All Too Common In Hospice and End of Life Care

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Laura A. Petrillo MD
Instructor in Medicine
Harvard Medical School, and Palliative Care Physician
Massachusetts General Hospital

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Hospice is end-of-life care focused on maximizing quality of life. Hospice often involves reducing or stopping treatments that are unlikely to have short-term benefit in order to avoid uncomfortable side effects. About a quarter of Americans die in nursing homes, and some of them receive hospice care in their final days. We looked at whether adults with type 2 diabetes experience low blood sugar while on hospice in veterans’ nursing homes, since low blood sugar signals inappropriately aggressive diabetes treatment in patients close to death and contributes to unnecessary discomfort.

We found that one in nine people experienced low blood sugar at least once while receiving hospice care. Among people who were on insulin, the number was one in three.

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Advanced Directive Forms Rarely Completed by Patients Seen For Palliative Care Consult

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kara Bischoff, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Hospital Medicine & Palliative Care Director of Quality Improvement for the Palliative Care Service UCSF Department of Medicine

Dr. Bischoff

Kara Bischoff, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor, Hospital Medicine & Palliative Care
Director of Quality Improvement for the Palliative Care Service
UCSF Department of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Care planning, which we define as including both advance care planning and goals of care discussions, are a common need in seriously ill patients and a key function of palliative care teams.

However, few studies have looked at how often and how care planning is being done by inpatient palliative care teams throughout the United States, and similarly few studies have examined the precise impact of these care planning activities. Therefore, using data from a large quality improvement registry in palliative care called the Palliative Care Quality Network, we examined:

1) the characteristics of hospitalized patients who are referred to inpatient palliative care consult services,

2) the activities that occurred during those inpatient palliative care consults, and

3) the outcomes that resulted.

In looking at data from 73,145 patients who referred for an inpatient palliative care consult, we found that care planning was the most common reason for inpatient palliative care consultation, requested for 71.9% of patients who were referred to palliative care. Further, care planning needs were found in more than half (58%) of palliative care patients even when the consult was requested for reasons other than care planning. Patients referred to palliative care for care planning were somewhat older than patients referred for other reasons, they were less likely to have cancer, and were more often full code at the time of referral. Through care planning conversations, palliative care clinicians frequently identified surrogates and clarified patients’ preferences for life-sustaining treatments (including code status). For instance, 31% more patients chose a code status of DNR/DNI after a conversation with the palliative care team.

However, we also found that legal forms such as advance directives and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments (POLST) forms were completed for just 3.2% and 12.3% of the patients see by palliative care teams, respectively. This highlights an important quality gap in need of improvement.

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Who Takes Advantage of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Charles D. Blanke, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.S.C.O. CHAIR, SWOG Professor, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Marquam II

Dr. Blanke

Charles D. Blanke, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.S.C.O.
CHAIR, SWOG
Professor, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute
Marquam II

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act as a voter initiative which law in 1997 – the first of its kind in the nation. Now, physician aid-in-dying is spreading quickly, with the states of Washington, Vermont, Colorado, and California passing similar legislation, as well as the District of Columbia, and Montana (through a court ruling). Millions of Americans lives in states where they would have the opportunity, if they were terminally ill, to take a lethal dose of medication with a doctor’s prescription.

My team here at SWOG, a global cancer research community that designs and conducts publicly funded clinical trials, wanted to look at Oregon’s 18 years of aid-in-dying data and answer some simple questions: Who is using the law? Why? Are the drugs effective? What are the trends in actually taking the prescribed medications? We found that use of law has mostly increased over time – and substantially increased in 2014 and 2015.

We found that predominantly white, older, well-educated people, take advantage of the law, and many of them – 77 percent – have underlying terminal cancer. The medication is also 99.4 percent effective.

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End-of-Life Care Transition Patterns of Medicare Beneficiaries

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Shi-Yi Wang MD, PhD.

Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology
Yale School of Public Health
New Haven, CT

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Care at the end of life is often fragmented and poorly coordinated across different health providers. Multiple transitions in care settings can be burdensome to patients and their families as well as costly to society. Despite these concerns about care transitions in the end of life, we lack contemporary data on the number, timing, and overall pattern of healthcare transitions in the last 6 months of life.

This study adds to the extant literature by understanding transition trajectories, national variation of the transitions, and factors associated with transitions. We found that more than 80% of Medicare fee-for-service decedents had at least one health care transition and approximately one-third had ≥ 4 transitions in the last 6 months of life. We produced Sankey diagrams to visualize the sequences of healthcare transitions. The most frequent transition pattern involving at least four transitions: home-hospital-home (or skilled nursing facility)-hospital-healthcare setting other than hospital. There was substantial geographic variation in healthcare transitions in the United States. We found that several factors were associated with a significantly increased risk of having multiple transitions, including female gender, blacks, residence in lower income areas, presence of heart disease or kidney disease.

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Which Patients With Advanced Respiratory Disease Die in the Hospital?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Sabrina Bajwah MBChB MRCGP MSc MA PhD Consultant Palliative Medicine, King’s College NHS Foundation Trust Honorary Senior Lecturer King's College London Cicely Saunders Institute, Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation London, UK

Dr Sabrina Bajwah

Dr Sabrina Bajwah
MBChB MRCGP MSc MA PhD
Consultant Palliative Medicine, King’s College NHS Foundation Trust
Honorary Senior Lecturer
King’s College London
Cicely Saunders Institute, Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation
London, UK 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Where people die is often important to them and their families, as well as being important for planning health care services. Most people want to die at home, but instead most die in hospital. While the trends have been studied in cancer, other diseases, such as respiratory, are rarely looked at even though they are common and increasing causes of death.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Interstitial Pulmonary Diseases (IPD) are common respiratory conditions. Both conditions result in a high use of hospital services, especially among people in advanced stages. This leads to high healthcare costs.1 In the UK in 2010, it is estimated that IPD costs £16.2 million per year in hospitalisations.2 The NHS spends more than £810 million annually managing COPD, with inpatient stays accounting for around £250 million annually.

Understanding which factors affect place of death is vital for planning services and improving care, especially given our ageing population, rising chronic diseases and the high costs of hospital admissions. Strategies in many countries have sought to improve palliative care and reduce hospital deaths for non-cancer patients, but their effects are not evaluated.

We aimed to determine the trends and factors associated with dying in hospital in COPD and IPD, and the impact of a national end of life care (EoLC) strategy3 to reduce deaths in hospital. This study analysed a national data set of all deaths for COPD and IPD, covering 380,232 people over 14 years.

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Hospice Services May Be Difficult To Find For Undocumented Immigrants

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Nathan A. Gray, M.D. Duke Palliative Care Durham, NC 27710

Dr. Nathan Gray

Nathan A. Gray, M.D.
Duke Palliative Care
Durham, NC 27710

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The estimated number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States has been stable in recent years, but lengths of residence in the country are rising. This aging population of undocumented immigrants can expect to face an increasing burden of chronic disease and end-of-life needs, but may experience challenges in obtaining hospice care in the last months of life as many are uninsured and none are eligible for the Medicare Hospice Benefit. While hospice agencies do provide charity care, little is known about hospice agency approaches to caring for undocumented immigrants.

We surveyed a national sample of hospice agencies and found that many hospice agencies do not enroll undocumented immigrants or place restrictions on the number enrolled. More than half of agencies sampled had received requests for enrollment of undocumented immigrants in the past year. Offering unrestricted enrollment was more common among larger, not-for-profit hospices in our sample.

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Reasons for Drug Policy Reform: Millions of People are Left with Untreated Pain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Katherine Irene Pettus, PhD, OSB

Advocacy Officer International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care
Vice Chair, Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs
Secretary NGO Committee on Ageing, Geneva

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The background for this study is analysis of the three international drug control treaties, official attendance and participation at meetings of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs for the past four years, ongoing discussion of national opioid consumption rates with INCB, and years of home hospice visits in developing countries.

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How Spain Became a Leader In Transplant Organ Donation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Beatriz Domínguez-Gil, MD, PhD Organización Nacional de Trasplantes Madrid Spain

Dr. Beatriz Domínguez-Gil

Beatriz Domínguez-Gil, MD, PhD
Organización Nacional de Trasplantes
Madrid Spain 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Organ shortage remains the most important barrier to the development of transplantation therapies. It leads to deaths on the waiting list, poor quality of life, increased costs to healthcare systems and emerging unethical practices as organ trafficking, mostly in the form of transplant tourism. Shortage of organs to meet the transplantation needs is a universal problem – also in Spain.

The potential of donation from the deceased is decreasing or expected to decrease in most developed countries, which makes it imperative to conceive new ways of increasing organ availibility.

In 2008, ONT conceived the 40 donors pmp plan, which includes the three strategies that are described in the paper:

–          The identification of possible donors outside of the ICU to pose the option of intensive care to facilitate organ donation.

–          The promotion of the expanded and non-standard risk donor.

–          The development of donation after circulatory death

The three strategies have made the country not only reach, but even surpass the objective of 40 donors pmp (43,4 in 2016).

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Model Uses Three Lab Values To Predict End of Life in Cancer Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Yu Uneno, M.D.
Department of Therapeutic Oncology,
Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University
Kyoto city, Kyoto Japan

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Prognosis prediction is one of the most important issues to make an optimal treatment decision for both cancer patients and health care professionals. Previous prognosis prediction models were developed using data from single time point (at the baseline, for example), limiting the use of the models at the similar situation.

Recently, we have developed the Six Adaptable Prognostic (SAP) models which can be repeatedly used at any time point after the initiation of treatment for patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy. Those models use only three laboratory items (albumin, neutrophil, lactate dehydrogenase) which are routinely monitored in daily clinical practice.

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Palliative Care Linked To Fewer Symptoms and Better Quality of Life

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Dio Kavalieratos, PhD Assistant Professor of Medicine Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics Division of General Medicine Institute of Clinical Research University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Dio Kavalieratos

Dr. Dio Kavalieratos, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics
Division of General Medicine
Institute of Clinical Research
University of Pittsburgh

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The field of palliative care has seen a dramatic surge in research and clinical implementation over the past decade. The last systematic review of palliative care trials was published in 2008. In that review, the authors reported very weak evidence for palliative care, as well as major methodological limitations in the trials that had been done to date. Since then, several landmark trials have been published, some with very compelling findings such increased survival. Therefore, an up-to-date review was in order.

There also had not previously been enough trials to perform a meta-analysis. A meta-analysis is the statistical process of combining the results of multiple trials, which gives you an overall effect for an intervention, in this case, palliative care. We were able to conduct the first meta-analysis of the effect of palliative care with three important outcomes: patient quality of life, patient symptom burden, and patient survival.

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Family-Centered Advanced Care Planning for Adolescents With HIV

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Maureen E. Lyon PhD Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Center for Translational Science/Children’s Research Institute, Children’s National The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences Washington, District of Columbia

Dr. Maureen E. Lyon

Maureen E. Lyon PhD
Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine,
Center for Translational Science/Children’s Research Institute, Children’s National
The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Washington, District of Columbia

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Despite policy recommendations to include adolescents with chronic and life-limiting conditions in decision-making about their own end-of-life care, barriers continue in clinical practice, including fear of distressing vulnerable adolescents and providers’ beliefs that these conversations are potentially harmful.

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Minorities Much Less Likely To Have Advance Care Health Planning

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Krista Lyn Harrison, PhD Division of Geriatrics School of Medicine University of California San Francisco VA Medical Center San Francisco, CA 94121

Dr. Krista Lyn Harrison

Krista Lyn Harrison, PhD
Division of Geriatrics School of Medicine
University of California
San Francisco VA Medical Center
San Francisco, CA 94121

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Advance care planning (ACP) is the process of discussing plans and preferences for end-of-life care. It may include completion of advanced directives or a living will and designation of a surrogate decision-maker in a durable power of attorney for health care. There is a growing awareness of the benefits of such discussions for both elders and their families. In absence of these discussions, loved ones are left to guess what the affected individual wanted or may even get mired in unexpected legal issues. But until recently, it was unknown if all races/ethnicities, education levels, and incomes have benefited from efforts to improve engagement in advance care planning, and if these discussions are greater among those in worse health and with a poorer prognosis.

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Mechanical Ventilation Doubles For Persons With Advanced Dementia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Joan M. Teno, MD, MS Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence University of Washington Medicine Seattle, Washington

Dr. Joan Teno

Joan M. Teno, MD, MS
Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics,
Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence
University of Washington Medicine
Seattle, Washington

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: An important challenge for our health care system is effectively caring for persons that high-need, high-cost — persons afflicted with advanced dementia and severe functional impairment are among these persons, with substantial need and if hospitalized in the ICU and mechanically ventilated are high cost patients, who are unlikely to benefit from this level of care and our best evidence suggest the vast majority of persons would not want this care. In a previous study, we interviewed families of advance dementia with 96% starting the goals of care are to focus comfort. Mechanical ventilation in some cases may be life saving, but in cases such as those with advanced dementia and severe functional impairment, they may result in suffering without an improvement in survival.

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The “Surprise Question” May Help Stimulate Palliative Care Discussions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Joshua R. Lakin, MD Instructor in Medicine Harvard Medical School Dana Farber Cancer Institute

Dr. Joshua Lakin

Joshua R. Lakin, MD
Instructor in Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Dana Farber Cancer Institute

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Research has increasingly shown the benefits of early palliative care interventions, especially in those around communication about patient goals and preferences in serious illness. These benefits include improved quality of life and psychological outcomes for patients as well as eased bereavement and decision making for loved ones. We have a large gap to fill in initiating early goals and values conversations with our patients and there are a myriad of systems failures and clinician barriers that do not allow us to do this work in a timely and effective way. Doing so with limited resources, both in specialty palliative care and in the many frontline clinicians doing this work, requires targeting our resources carefully.

Doing these conversations earlier means identifying patients upstream, before they are in the last days of life. The Surprise Question – “Would you be surprised if this patient died in the next year?” – has emerged as an attractive option for screening for early palliative care interventions. It has been studied primarily in dialysis and cancer patients and has been demonstrated to have a strong association with risk of death. We set out to test it in a more diverse primary care population.

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Early Palliative Care Improved Patients’ Symptoms and Coping Skills

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Joseph A. Greer, Ph.D. Program Director, Center for Psychiatric Oncology & Behavioral Sciences Associate Director, Cancer Outcomes Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center Yawkey Center, Boston, MA 02114

Dr. Joseph Greer

Joseph A. Greer, Ph.D.
Program Director, Center for Psychiatric Oncology & Behavioral Sciences
Associate Director, Cancer Outcomes Research Program,
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
Yawkey Center, Boston, MA 02114

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Many patients with advanced cancer have a high symptom burden, increased depression symptoms, misperceptions about their prognosis, and difficulties in making decisions about care at the end of life.

To address these challenges and improve care for this vulnerable population, our research team initially conducted a small, single-group pilot study of early palliative care integrated with standard oncology care for patients with advanced lung cancer.

This study showed that the model of integrated care was feasible and acceptable to patients and their families. Specifically, the majority of patients in the study were able to meet with a palliative care clinician at least monthly from the time of diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer, in order to receive help with managing symptoms as well as support for coping with the disease and making decisions about treatment. We then conducted a follow-up randomized controlled trial of early, integrated palliative care in a sample of approximately 150 patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. This study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 and showed that those patients who received early palliative care reported significantly improved quality of life, mood, prognostic awareness, and end-of-life care compared to those who received standard oncology care alone.

To confirm the findings of our prior research and to determine whether the benefits of early integrated palliative care would apply to a larger sample of patients with diverse malignancies, we recently completed another randomized trial of this same model of care in a sample of 350 patients with incurable lung and gastrointestinal cancers. In this trial, we observed that patients who received the early palliative care intervention reported higher quality of life and improved mood by 24 weeks but not at the primary end-point of 12 weeks. Our team was surprised to find that the trajectory of quality of life and depression symptoms over time was different for individuals with incurable lung versus gastrointestinal cancers in this study. As expected, the palliative care intervention positively buffered the decline in quality of life by 12 weeks for patients with incurable lung cancer, as we had seen in our prior trial. However, the group of patients with gastrointestinal cancers reported an improvement in their quality of life by the 12-week time point regardless of whether they received the palliative care intervention.

We are still exploring possible reasons for this difference, such as whether changes in cancer therapy may have reduced symptoms and improved quality of life in the group of patients with gastrointestinal cancer.

In addition, we were pleased to learn that the early integrated palliative care intervention led to improvements in how patients cope with their illness. For example, compared to patients in the usual oncology care group, those who received early, integrated palliative care were more likely to learn ways to accept their diagnosis and to take positive actions to make their lives better. So, in addition to treating patients’ symptoms, the palliative care clinicians in this study were bolstering people’s adaptive coping skills.

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Cancer Caregivers Report More Stress Than For Non-Cancer Conditions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Erin Kent, PhD, MS Program Director Outcomes Research Branch of the Healthcare Delivery Research Program National Cancer Institute

Dr. Erin Kent

Erin Kent, PhD, MS
Program Director
Outcomes Research Branch of the Healthcare Delivery Research Program
National Cancer Institute

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Informal or family caregivers assist loved ones by providing care which is typically uncompensated, takes place typically at home, and often involves significant efforts for an extended period of time. Caregiving can require the performance of demanding tasks, which include managing symptom burden, monitoring for side effects from treatment, coordinating care, administering medication, and managing a care recipient’s financial and social obligations. In addition, there are many unique aspects of cancer that can place unique demands on caregivers, including sometimes a rapid deterioration of health, the receipt of multi-modal therapy (eg. surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation), and the possibility of cancer recurrence.

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Patients With Advanced Cancer Often Misunderstand Their Prognosis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Robert Gramling, MD, DSc Division of Palliative Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington Department of Family Medicine Burlington Vermont School of Nursing and Department of Public Health Sciences Center for Communication and Disparities Research, Department of Family Medicine, and Division of Palliative Care, Center for Community Health, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York

Dr. Robert Gramling

Robert Gramling, MD, DSc
Division of Palliative Medicine, University of Vermont,
Burlington Department of Family Medicine
Burlington Vermont
School of Nursing and Department of Public Health Sciences
Center for Communication and Disparities Research, Department of Family Medicine, and Division of Palliative Care,
Center for Community Health, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry,
Rochester, New York

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Patients with advanced cancer often misunderstand their doctor’s expectations about the length of life they have remaining and this misunderstanding is relevant to their preferences for sharing in treatment decisions at end of life.

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