Strategies for introducing outpatient specialty palliative care in gynecologic oncology

Casey M. Hay*, Carolyn Lefkowits, Megan Crowley-Matoka, Marie A. Bakitas, Leslie H. Clark, Linda R. Duska, Renata R. Urban, Stephanie L. Creasy, Yael Schenker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Purpose Concern that patients will react negatively to the idea of palliative care is cited as a barrier to timely referral. Strategies to successfully introduce specialty palliative care to patients have not been well described. We sought to understand how gynecologic oncologists introduce outpatient specialty palliative care. Methods We conducted a national qualitative interview study at six geographically diverse academic cancer centers with well-established palliative care clinics between September 2015 and March 2016. Thirty-four gynecologic oncologists participated in semistructured telephone interviews focusing on attitudes, experiences, and practices related to outpatient palliative care. A multidisciplinary team analyzed interview transcripts using constant comparative methods to inductively develop and refine a coding framework. This analysis focuses on practices for introducing palliative care. Results Mean participant age was 47 years (standard deviation, 10 years). Mean interview length was 25 minutes (standard deviation, 7 minutes). Gynecologic oncologists described the following three main strategies for introducing outpatient specialty palliative care: focus initial palliative care referral on symptom management to dissociate palliative care from end-of-life care and facilitate early relationship building with palliative care clinicians; use a strong physician-patient relationship and patient trust to increase acceptance of referral; and explain and normalize palliative care referral to address negative associations and decrease patient fear of abandonment. These strategies aim to decrease negative patient associations and encourage acceptance of early referral to palliative care specialists. Conclusion Gynecologic oncologists have developed strategies for introducing palliative care services to alleviate patient concerns. These strategies provide groundwork for developing systemwide best practice approaches to the presentation of palliative care referral.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e712-e720
JournalJournal of oncology practice
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Health Policy
  • Oncology


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