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Early Identification of Pediatric Neurology Patients With Palliative Care Needs: A Pilot Study

Journal title
The American journal of hospice & palliative care
Publication year
Lyons-Warren, A. M.; Stowe, R. C.; Emrick, L.; Jarrell, J. A.

Palliative care services are beneficial for pediatric neurology patients with chronic, life-limiting illnesses. However, timely referral to palliative care may be impeded due to an inability to identify appropriate patients. The aim of this pilot case-control study was to test a quantitative measure for identifying patients with unmet palliative care needs to facilitate appropriate referrals. First, a random subset of pediatric neurology patients were screened for number of hospital admissions, emergency center visits, and problems on the problem list. Screening results led to the hypothesis that having six or more hospital admissions in one year indicated unmet palliative care needs. Next, hospital admissions in the past year were counted for all patients admitted to the neurology service during a six-month period. Patients with six or more admissions as well as age- and gender-matched controls were assessed for unmet palliative care needs. In hospitalized pediatric neurology patients, having six or more admissions in the preceding year did not predict unmet palliative care needs. While this pilot study did not find a quantitative measure that identifies patients needing a palliative care consultation, the negative finding highlights an important distinction between unmet social needs that interfere with care and unmet palliative care needs. Further, the method of screening patients used in this study was simple to implement and provides a framework for future studies.

Research abstracts