BACKGROUND: Multidisciplinary palliative care teams (PCTs) are increasingly employed for cancer patients. However, relatively few studies have prospectively assessed the clinical effectiveness of inpatient PCTs. Our aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of a multidisciplinary PCT for hospitalised cancer patients in a large university hospital in The Netherlands.
METHODS: Clinical data and duration of hospitalisation were prospectively collected between January 2007 and December 2008. A group of cancer pain patients from 2006 served as a historical control.
RESULTS: The number of consultations increased from 130 in 2006 to 235 in 2008. The reason for consultation changed from pain in 98% of consultations in 2006 to a diversity of palliative symptoms in 2008. In 2008 a significant decrease in mean pain intensity, including a 70% reduction in severe pain, occurred within 24 h following consultation, although the authors did not demonstrate that the effectiveness of the PCT in 2007 and 2008 surpassed that of routine oncological care including pain control in 2006. Similarly, the median severity for 7 out of 10 items from the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) decreased significantly within 72 h following consultation. The median number of days in hospital for patients for whom the PCT was consulted decreased from 14 days in 2006 to 10 days in 2008.
CONCLUSIONS: The authors conclude that a multidisciplinary PCT for clinical cancer patients may have a positive effect on pain, on ESAS symptoms and on duration of hospitalisation.