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The Appropriate Provision of Primary versus Specialist Palliative Care to Cancer Patients: Oncologists' Perspectives.

Gidwani R, Nevedal A, Patel M, Blayney DW, Timko C, Ramchandran K, Kelly PA, Asch SM. The Appropriate Provision of Primary versus Specialist Palliative Care to Cancer Patients: Oncologists' Perspectives. Journal of palliative medicine. 2017 Apr 1; 20(4):395-403.

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BACKGROUND: Many cancer patients do not receive recommended palliative care (PC). Oncologists' perspectives about PC have not been adequately described qualitatively and may explain some of the gaps in the delivery of PC. OBJECTIVE: To characterize U.S. oncologists' perceptions of: primary and specialist PC; experiences interacting with PC specialists; and the optimal interface of PC and oncology in providing PC. DESIGN: In-depth interviews with practicing oncologists. SETTING/SUBJECTS: Oncologists working in: the general community, academic medical centers (AMC), and Veterans Health Administration. MEASUREMENTS: Semistructured telephone interviews with 31 oncologists analyzed using matrix and thematic approaches. RESULTS: Seven major themes emerged: PC was perceived as appropriate throughout the disease trajectory but due to resource constraints was largely provided at end of life; oncologists had three schools of thought on primary versus specialist PC; there was an under-availability of outpatient PC; poor communication about prognosis and care plans created tension between providers; PC was perceived as a "team of outsiders"; PC had too narrow a focus of care; and AMC-based PC evidence did not generalize to community practices. Oncologists noted three ways to improve the interface between oncologists and PC providers: a clear division of responsibility, in-person collaboration, and sharing of nonphysician palliative team members. CONCLUSIONS: Oncologists in our sample were supportive of PC, but they reported obstacles related to care coordination and inpatient PC. Inpatient PC posed some unique challenges with respect to conflicting prognoses and care practices that would be mitigated through the increased availability and use of outpatient PC.

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