Characteristics of hospitalized cancer patients referred for inpatient palliative care consultation

Joan D. Penrod, Melissa M. Garrido, Karen McKendrick, Peter May, Melissa D. Aldridge, Diane E. Meier, Katherine A. Ornstein, R. Sean Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Palliative care is associated with improved patient and family outcomes and lower cost of care, but studies estimate that <50% of hospitalized adults in the United States who are appropriate for palliative care receive it. Few studies have addressed demographic and clinical factors associated with receipt of palliative care. Objective: Our aim was to identify characteristics of hospitalized advanced cancer patients that are associated with referral to an interdisciplinary hospital-based palliative care team. Methods: The data are from a prospective observational study of hospitalized advanced cancer patients in five hospitals. We used multivariable logistic regression to estimate the relationship between patient characteristics and palliative care referral. Results: The sample includes 3096 patients; 81% received usual care and 19% were referred to palliative care. Advanced cancer patients were twice as likely to receive palliative care referral if, at admission, they needed assistance with transfer from bed (p = 0.002) and about 1.5 times as likely if they were taking medication for pain (p = 0.002), nausea (p = 0.04), or constipation (p = 0.04). Patients with more comorbidities (p = 0.001) and higher symptom burden (p = 0.001) were more likely to be referred. Conclusion: Advanced cancer patients were more likely to be referred to the palliative care consultation team if they had high symptom burden at hospital admission. Overall a minority of advanced cancer patients were referred. Standardized screening for palliative care may be needed to ensure that advanced cancer patients receive the highest quality of evidence based care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1321-1326
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • advanced cancer
  • hospital care
  • palliative care


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