Assessing Impact of CCO's PSO & PC Pathway in Ambulatory HNC Clinics

Official Title

Assessing the Impact of Cancer Care Ontario's Psychosocial Oncology & Palliative Care Pathway in Ambulatory Head and Neck Cancer Clinics


Rates of depression and anxiety in cancer patients are much higher compared to the general population. 40% of head and neck cancer patients will develop significant distress along the cancer journey. Less than half of these patients are able to access support, with factors such as age, social difficulty, cancer stage and site affecting referral. In 2016, 78,000 Canadians died of cancer, yet there is limited implementation of routine and integrated advanced care planning in cancer care. An upcoming deliverable of all cancer centres in Ontario is the integration of Cancer Care Ontario's Psychosocial and Palliative Care (PSOPC) pathway into all disease pathways. Successful widespread implementation of this pathway at Odette Cancer Centre (OCC) will impact >16,000 patients/year. If effective, it will reduce suffering, unnecessary healthcare utilization, improve treatment decisions and compliance, enable a better quality of life in survivorship and improve quality at end of life. There is a need for better developed, standardized response pathways to address PSO and PC needs throughout the patient's journey.

Trial Description

Primary Outcome:

  • Increased documentation of response to symptoms (ESAS), PPS, illness understanding and advanced care planning (ACP)
Secondary Outcome:
  • The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life (EORTC-QOL 30)
  • Princess Margaret Hospital Satisfaction with Doctor Questionnaire (PMH-PSQ 24)
  • Mixed-methods interviews
  • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)
  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II)
  • General Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7)
  • Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)
  • Experiences in Close Relationships Inventory
  • Patient and, if participating, Caregiver Semi-structured interview
  • Edmonton Symptom Assessment System
  • Palliative Performance Scale
  • Illness Understanding Questionnaire

Head and neck cancer (HNC) is the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. Individuals with HNC experience a high burden of symptom-related distress (e.g. emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual etc.). Additionally, HNC patients may experience facial disfigurement, communication barriers, social stigma, lack of social support, and/or self-imposed or experienced disease stigma. The presence of depression, anxiety or social difficulty is relatively common in HNC patients yet less than half of those with significant distress access psychosocial (PSO) and palliative care (PC). Few studies have examined a systematic response to reducing distress, integrating a routine psychosocial and palliative care approach to oncology, with planning for future care for this population.

Most cancer centres do not have a systematic model of practice geared towards distress screening, PC and PSO approach to care. Therefore, determining how to best incorporate PSO and PC (PSOPC) into the interprofessional oncology clinic management of patients with HNC remains an important and unanswered question. The question remains of how to proactively identify those at higher risk for distress and greater need for specialized psychosocial or palliative care. Some oncologists consider the provision of PSOPC as an integral part of their professional role. Yet increasing the delivery of quality primary PSOPC by busy oncologists may require targeted training, the use of algorithms to prompt PC and PSO assessment, incorporating response to distress screening / advanced care planning tools into routine clinical processes, prompts to document conversations about illness understanding and consideration of individual factors influencing treatment decisions.

The primary goal of this study is to integrate quality primary level PSO and PC into clinic care by developing and evaluating a routine response to screening in hopes of increasing documentation of the following: discussion of response to ESAS, illness understanding, advanced care planning or goals of care conversations.

Specifically, this study will examine the impact of Cancer Care Ontario's (CCO) PSOPC Pathway, an expert panel recommended algorithm for assessing and managing symptoms and initiating a PSOPC approach and timely specialized referral, when necessary.

Phase Two: Randomized Controlled Trial After completing the needs assessment and interprofessional team training in PSO and PC, an RCT will be used to examine the impact of using a standardized PSOPC pathway approach, prompted follow up with patients and documentation. Participants will be recruited and randomized into care as usual group and "intervention" PSOPC pathway group.

Main Hypothesis: It is hypothesized that compared to treatment as usual, the PSOPC pathway intervention group will result in an increase in (larger proportion of):

Rationale and Objective: Innovation: Model of clinical service delivery Currently, there is no standardized process for meeting the psychosocial and palliative care needs of HNC. This project promotes learner,needs-driven professional development, and knowledge translation. It will foster a person-focused, results-driven, integrated and sustainable model of clinical service delivery.

Individual clinics and cancer centres have developed their own responses to Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) distress screening. However, we believe this project is a unique Oncology Team/PC/PSO/Patient Advisor collaboration, where all members will work together to improve symptom assessment and management, improve discussions and documentation involving illness understanding and advanced care planning to better meet PSO and PC needs, whilst assessing the role for the PSOPC Pathway.

An additional innovation for this project is to develop and evaluate a customizable approach to assessing the needs of an oncology team, thereby shaping both professional development experiences and determining a model of care delivery that should be acceptable within the clinic frame.

Improving Healthcare and Patient Experience: The CCO PSOPC pathway was designed to guide improvements in the provision of primary PSOPC Care, including symptom response, communication, illness understanding, advanced care planning, as well as increased identification of those who require access to specialized PSO and PC beyond the skill set of the oncology team. An inaccurate illness understanding (whether the cancer is curable or not and whether it is progressing) hinders informed discussions and decisions and supportive end of life planning. And, while some patients with moderate to severe ESAS ratings have their symptoms assessed and managed, this is not the case for all patients. Earlier advanced care planning discussions help patients and their families have a better understanding of the disease to make more personalized, informed decisions about care.

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Canadian Cancer Society

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