Increasing Readiness for Early Integrated Palliative Oncology Care: Development and Initial Evaluation of the EMPOWER 2 Intervention

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Journal of Pain and Symptom Management


Context: Early integrated palliative care improves quality of life, but palliative care programs are underutilized. Psychoeducational interventions explaining palliative care may increase patients' readiness for palliative care. Objectives: To 1) collaborate with stakeholders to develop the EMPOWER 2 intervention explaining palliative care, 2) examine acceptability, 3) evaluate feasibility and preliminary efficacy. Methods: The research was conducted at a North American cancer center and involved 21 stakeholders and 10 patient-participants. Investigators and stakeholders iteratively developed the intervention. Stakeholders rated acceptability of the final intervention. Investigators implemented a pre-post trial to examine the feasibility of recruiting 10 patients with metastatic cancer within one month and with a ≥50% consent rate. Preliminary efficacy outcomes were changes in palliative care knowledge and attitudes. Results: Using feedback from four stakeholder meetings, we developed a multimedia intervention tailored to three levels of health-literacy. The intervention provides knowledge and reassurance about the purpose and nature of palliative care, addressing cognitive and emotional barriers to utilization. Stakeholders rated the intervention and design process highly acceptable (3.78/4.00). The pilot met a priori feasibility criteria (10 patients enrolled in 14 days; 83.3% consent rate). The intervention increased palliative care knowledge by 83.1% and improved attitudes by 18.9 points on a 0 to 51 scale (Ps < 0.00001). Conclusions: This formative research outlines the development of a psychoeducational intervention about palliative care. The intervention is acceptable, feasible, and demonstrated promising pilot test results. This study will guide clinical teams in improving patients’ readiness for palliative care and inform the forthcoming EMPOWER 3 randomized clinical trial.

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