Emergency Department-Based Palliative Interventions: A Novel Approach to Palliative Care in the Emergency Department

Quentin Reuter, Alison Marshall, Hashim Zaidi, Priyanka Sista, Emilie S. Powell, Danielle M. McCarthy, Scott M. Dresden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with cancer and palliative care needs frequently use the emergency department (ED). ED-based palliative services may extend the reach of palliative care for these patients. Objective: To assess the feasibility and reach of an ED-based palliative intervention (EPI) program. Design: A cross-sectional descriptive study of ED patients with active cancer from January 2017 to August 2017. Subjects: Patients with palliative care needs were identified using an abbreviated 5-question version of the screen for palliative and end-of-life care needs in the ED (5-SPEED). Patients with palliative care needs were then automatically flagged for an EPI as determined by their identified need. Measurements: The primary outcome was the prevalence of palliative care needs among patients with active cancer. Secondary outcomes were the rate of EPI services successfully delivered to ED patients with unmet palliative care needs, ED length of stay (LOS), and repeat ED visits within the next 10 days. Categorical variables were evaluated using chi-squared or Fischer's exact test as appropriate. Continuous variables were evaluated using analysis of variance. Results: Of the 1278 patients with active cancer, 817 (63.9%) completed the 5-SPEED screen. Of the patients who completed the screen, 422 patients (51.7%) had one or more unmet palliative care needs and 167 (39.6%) received an EPI. There were no differences in ED LOS or 10-day repeat ED visit rates between patients who did or did not receive an EPI. Conclusion: This ED-based intervention successfully screened for palliative needs in cancer patients and improved access to specific palliative services without increasing ED LOS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-655
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • emergency medicine
  • oncology
  • palliative care screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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