A Framework for Assessing Quality Indicators for Cancer Care at the End of Life
Published In: Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, v. 38, no. 6, Dec. 2009, p. 903-912
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008
Patients with advanced cancer often do not receive high-quality pain and symptom management or support with coordination of care, communication, and decision making. Implementing quality indicators that are reflective of the scope of care, feasible to implement, and supported by evidence might help to identify areas and settings most in need of improvement. However, recent reviews and policy initiatives identified only a few indicators that met these criteria. To help advance quality indicator development and implementation in this area, we developed a conceptual framework based on previous related initiatives, updated reviews of end-of-life cancer quality indicators and relevant data sources, and expert input. The framework describes five steps for developing and assessing a quality indicator for end-of-life care, defining the 1) population of focus, 2) broad quality domains, 3) specific target areas, 4) steps of the care process, and 5) evaluation criteria for quality indicators. The defined population includes seriously or terminally ill cancer patients, who are unlikely to recover or stabilize, and their families. Domains include the structure and processes of care; the physical, psychiatric, psychosocial, spiritual, and cultural aspects of care; as well as the care of the imminently dying, ethical and legal issues, and the delivery of care. Evaluation criteria include importance; scientific acceptability, including validity, evidence to improve outcomes, reliability, responsiveness, and variability; usability; and feasibility, including ready data sources. By using this conceptual framework, indicator developers, researchers, and policymakers can refine and implement indicator sets to effectively evaluate and improve care at the end of life.