Impact of provider level, training and gender on the utilization of palliative care and hospice in neuro-oncology: a North-American survey

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Journal of neuro-oncology


Specialized palliative care (PC) services have emerged to address symptoms and provide end-of-life management for patients with brain tumors. The utilization patterns of PC in neuro-oncology are unknown. A 22-question survey was distributed to participants of the society for neuro-oncology annual meeting 2012 (n = 4487). Nonparametric methods including Wilcoxon two-sample and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to assess differences in responses. 239 (5.3 %) evaluable responses were received; 79 % of respondents were physicians, and 17 % were nurses or midlevel providers. Forty-seven percent were medical or neuro-oncologists, 31 % neurosurgeons and 11 % radiation oncologists. Forty percent had no formal training in PC, 57 % had some formal training and 3 % completed a PC fellowship. Seventy-nine percent practiced in an academic setting. Of the respondents, 57 % referred patients to PC when symptoms required treatment and 18 % at end of life. Only 51 % of all providers felt comfortable dealing with end-of-life issues and symptoms, while 33 % did not. Fifty-one percent preferred a service named "Supportive Care" rather than "Palliative Care" (MDs > midlevel providers, p < 0.001), and 32 % felt that patient expectations for ongoing therapy hindered their ability to make PC referrals. Female gender, formal training in neuro-oncology and PC, and medical versus surgical neuro-oncology training were significantly associated with hospice referral, comfort in dealing with end-of-life issues, and ease of access to PC services. Provider level, specialty, gender, training in PC and neuro-oncology have significant impact on the utilization of PC and hospice in neuro-oncology.

Medical Subject Headings

Brain Neoplasms; Female; Health Care Surveys; Hospices; Humans; Male; Medical Oncology; North America; Palliative Care; Physician-Patient Relations; Referral and Consultation; Sex Factors

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