Background: Guidelines recommend involvement of palliative care (PC) for patients with cardiovascular (CV) disease and their families. Little is known about the current integration of PC and CV services.
Research Objectives: Our national survey aimed to describe current practices and to identify benefits, challenges, and barriers with collaboration.
Methods: Qualitative content analysis of open-response questions in an investigator-developed electronic survey study of CV and PC providers (MDs, NPs, PAs, and other allied health) using email listservs, social media, and crowdsourcing. Frequencies were tabulated using SAS statistical software.
Results: Of 134 respondents, most were physicians (n=56, 57%) or advanced practice RNs or PAs (n=37, 28%), from 52 U.S. institutions, representing 33 states. The most common care for which PC was integrated were mechanical circulatory support, advanced heart failure, and heart transplantation; the least common care for which PC was integrated were TAVR, ECMO, and pulmonary hypertension. Integrated practice (n=80, 61%), PC identification of goals of care (n=20, 15%) and PC aid in patient/family communication (n=15, 11%) were the most commonly identified as positives in current practice. PC provider workforce (n=22, 16%), underutilization of PC referrals (n=20, 15%), late disease PC referral (n=19, 14%), and fundamental knowledge deficit of specialty scope (n=18, 14%) were most frequently identified as challenges. Other barriers specifically noted were underdeveloped health infrastructure and limited allocated resources (n=23,17%) and mis-/negative perception of services (n=15, 11%).
Conclusion: PC and CV collaboration occurs for a high proportion of CV patients and is viewed as overwhelming positive, despite the challenges of limited PC specialists availability, underdeveloped healthcare infrastructure, limited understanding of specialty practice, and late referrals. Priorities includes increasing PC provider availability, expanding knowledge of PC services, educating providers on models of collaboration, and improving institutional support.