Phase of Illness in palliative care: Cross-sectional analysis of clinical data from community, hospital and hospice patients

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Abstract

Background:

Phase of Illness describes stages of advanced illness according to care needs of the individual, family and suitability of care plan. There is limited evidence on its association with other measures of symptoms, and health-related needs, in palliative care.

Aims:

The aims of the study are as follows. (1) Describe function, pain, other physical problems, psycho-spiritual problems and family and carer support needs by Phase of Illness. (2) Consider strength of associations between these measures and Phase of Illness.

Design and setting:

Secondary analysis of patient-level data; a total of 1317 patients in three settings. Function measured using Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Scale. Pain, other physical problems, psycho-spiritual problems and family and carer support needs measured using items on Palliative Care Problem Severity Scale.

Results:

Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Scale and Palliative Care Problem Severity Scale items varied significantly by Phase of Illness. Mean function was highest in stable phase (65.9, 95% confidence interval = 63.4–68.3) and lowest in dying phase (16.6, 95% confidence interval = 15.3–17.8). Mean pain was highest in unstable phase (1.43, 95% confidence interval = 1.36–1.51). Multinomial regression: psycho-spiritual problems were not associated with Phase of Illness (χ2 = 2.940, df = 3, p = 0.401). Family and carer support needs were greater in deteriorating phase than unstable phase (odds ratio (deteriorating vs unstable) = 1.23, 95% confidence interval = 1.01–1.49). Forty-nine percent of the variance in Phase of Illness is explained by Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Scale and Palliative Care Problem Severity Scale.

Conclusion:

Phase of Illness has value as a clinical measure of overall palliative need, capturing additional information beyond Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Scale and Palliative Care Problem Severity Scale. Lack of significant association between psycho-spiritual problems and Phase of Illness warrants further investigation.

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