Does Educating Patients About the Early Palliative Care Study Increase Preferences for Outpatient Palliative Cancer Care? Findings From Project EMPOWER
Objectives: Randomized controlled trials, especially the Early Palliative Care Study (Temel et al., 2010), have shown that early outpatient palliative cancer care can improve quality of life for patients with advanced cancer or serious symptoms. However, fear and misconceptions drive avoidance of palliative care. Drawing from an empowerment perspective, we examined whether educating patients about evidence from the Early Palliative Care Study would increase preferences for palliative care. Method: A sample of 598 patients with prostate, breast, lung, colon/rectal, skin, and other cancer diagnoses completed an Internet-mediated experiment using a between-group prepost design. Intervention participants received a summary of the Early Palliative Care Study; controls received no intervention. Participants completed baseline and posttest assessments of preferences of palliative care. Analyses controlled for age, gender, education, cancer type, presence of metastases, time since diagnosis, and baseline preferences. Results: As hypothesized, the intervention had a favorable impact on participants’ preferences for outpatient palliative cancer care relative to controls (d = 1.01, p < .001), while controlling for covariates. Intervention participants came to view palliative care as more efficacious (d = 0.79, p < .001) and less scary (d = 0.60, p < .001) and exhibited stronger behavioral intentions to utilize outpatient palliative care if referred (d = 0.60, p < .001). Findings were comparable in patients with metastatic disease, those with less education, and those experiencing financial strain. Conclusions: Educating patients about the Early Palliative Care Study increases preferences for early outpatient palliative care. This research has implications for future studies aimed at improving quality of life in cancer by increasing palliative care utilization.