Palliative care (PC) aims to improve patients' and families' quality of life through an approach that relieves physical, psychosocial, and spiritual suffering, although the latter continues to be under-assessed and under-treated. This study aimed to describe the prevalence of physical, psychosocial, and hope assessments documented by a PC team in the first PC consultation.
The retrospective descriptive analysis of all first PC consultations registered in our anonymized database (December 2018–January 2020), searching for written documentation regarding (1) Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) physical subscale (pain, tiredness, nausea, drowsiness, appetite, shortness of breath, constipation, insomnia, and well-being), (2) the single question “Are you depressed?” (SQD), (3) the question “Do you feel anxious?” (SQA), (4) feeling a burden, (5) hope-related concerns, (6) the dignity question (DQ), and (7) will to live (WtL).
Of the 174 total of patients anonymously registered in our database, 141 PC home patients were considered for analysis; 63% were male, average age was 70 years, the majority had malignancies (82%), with a mean performance status of 52%. Evidence of written documentation was (1) ESAS pain (96%), tiredness (89%), nausea (89%), drowsiness (79%), appetite (89%), shortness of breath (82%), constipation (74%), insomnia (72%), and well-being (52%); (2) the SQD (39%); (3) the SQA (11%); (4) burden (26%); (5) hope (11%); (6) the DQ (33%); and (7) WtL (33%).
Significant differences were found between the frequencies of all documented items of the ESAS physical subscale (29%), and all documented psychosocial items (SQD + SQA + burden + DQ) (1%), hope (11%), and WtL (33%) (p = 0.0000; p = 0.0005; p = 0.0181, respectively).
Significance of results
There were differences between documentation of psychosocial, hope, and physical assessments after the first PC consultation, with the latter being much more frequent. Further research using multicenter data is now required to help identify barriers in assessing and documenting non-physical domains of end-of-life experience.