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The Effect of Palliative Care Team Design on Referrals to Pediatric Palliative Care

Journal title
Journal of palliative medicine
Publication year
Keele, L.; Keenan, H. T.; Bratton, S. L.

BACKGROUND: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) have recommended minimal standards for palliative care (PC) team composition and availability. It is unknown whether team composition affects utilization of PC. OBJECTIVE: The study objective was to describe pediatric PC team composition, evaluate whether composition and availability are associated with utilization, and examine PC referral patterns. METHODS: The study was a descriptive survey. Subjects were pediatric PC team directors or hospital administrators at Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) hospitals (N = 44). RESULTS: The overall response rate was 86%. Teams varied in size from <1 to 9 full-time members. Average referrals per hospital bed were 0.46, range 0.05-2.13. Among individual PC team roles, referral rates were 34% greater in teams with an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) (p = 0.07). Likewise, teams with acute pain, chronic pain, or hospice palliative medicine specialists tended to have greater referral rates (39%, 36%, and 25%), though reported differences were not statistically significant. Teams adherent to the original AAP recommendations had a 31% greater referral rate (p = 0.22). Teams available 24 hours daily had similar referral rates to those with less availability (0.47 versus 0.46 [p = 0.94]). CONCLUSIONS: Team composition and availability are not crucial to PC utilization. Hospitals with some personnel but not all recommended team members should create formal teams and modify them over time. The addition of team members that tend to increase referrals, namely ANPs and acute pain, chronic pain, or hospice palliative medicine specialists, should be considered.

Research abstracts