labyrinth of available treatments and services, emphasizing state-of-the-art symptom management as well as psychosocial and spiritual support.
Early results are encouraging. In the first year, 133 patients were enrolled, of whom 40 percent were members of ethnic or racial minorities. Pain assessment has been documented in 100 percent of Safe Conduct patients, compared to a historical control of just 3 percent. Quality-of-life scores remained steady or improved in Safe Conduct patients, despite concomitant decline in functional status. At baseline, only 13 percent of the center’s patients were served by hospice and for an average of just 3 days before death. Now, only 18 months into the Safe Conduct Project, more than 80 percent of Ireland’s patients have the benefits of hospice care, achieving an average length of stay of 18 days.
As part of the effort, Project Safe Conduct is also developing innovative palliative care curricula for the Case Western Reserve Schools of Medicine and Nursing, as well as postgraduate training for specialists in oncology.
4. Improvements in End-of-Life Care for Selected Populations—University of California-Davis Cancer Center
Researchers at the University of California-Davis (UC Davis) Medical Center and the West Coast Center for Palliative Education, Sacramento, California, have developed the Simultaneous Care project to extend palliative care to patients undergoing active, anticancer treatments (who would otherwise be ineligible for hospice care). In Simultaneous Care, palliative care staff work together with clinical oncologists to serve patients with advanced cancer, including those participating in experimental treatment protocols. In early results, quality of life as measured by the FACT (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy) shows a clear trend toward improvement for Simultaneous Care patients compared to patients receiving best customary care. There has also been a greater adherence to chemotherapy protocols for Simultaneous Care patients, a higher percentage of referrals to hospice, and improved length of stays in hospice. Finally, preliminary data suggest that the distress experienced by primary caregivers may be reduced, both during the illness and after the patient’s death.
In another aspect of this project, some of California’s hardest-to-serve populations are also being reached. The program expands and improves the level of palliative care available to people in three isolated, rural areas—Colusa, Tuolumne, and Plumas Counties—as well as the state women’s prison population. According to the project’s principal investigator, Dr. Frederick J.Meyers, although they are dissimilar in many ways, each of the targeted populations lacks access to palliative or hospice care.
In this project, palliative care experts have trained teams of health providers to work in the rural counties and to use teleconferencing links to UC Davis physicians for immediate assistance in the care of dying patients. Using remote television, UC Davis physicians consult with patients and offer suggestions for care. In a third component of the project, staff are working with California Department of Corrections and health care teams in the women’s prison to offer palliative care training and begin development of a prison hospice program to serve inmates who are dying.