Integrating palliative care services in ambulatory oncology: An application of the edmonton symptom assessment system

Sherri L. Rauenzahn, Susanne Schmidt, Ifeoma O. Aduba, Jessica T. Jones, Nazneen Ali, Laura L. Tenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose Research in palliative care demonstrates improvements in overall survival, quality of life, symptom management, and reductions in the cost of care. Despite the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommendation for early concurrent palliative care in patients with advanced cancer and high symptom burden, integrating palliative services is challenging. Our aims were to quantitatively describe the palliative referral rates and symptom burden in a South Texas cancer center and establish a palliative referral system by implementing the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS). Methods As part of our Plan-Do-Study-Act process, all staff received an educational overview of the ESAS tool and consultation ordering process. The ESAS form was then implemented across five ambulatory oncology clinics to assess symptom burden and changes therein longitudinally. Referral rates and symptom assessment scores were tracked as metrics for quality improvement. Results On average, one patient per month was referred before implementation of the intervention compared with 10 patients per month after implementation across all clinics. In five sample clinics, 607 patients completed the initial assessment, and 430 follow-up forms were collected over 5 months, resulting in a total of 1,037 scores collected in REDCap. The mean ESAS score for initial patient visits was 20.0 (standard deviation, 18.1), and referred patients had an initial mean score of 39.0 (standard deviation, 19.0). Conclusion This project highlights the low palliative care consultation rate, high symptom burden of oncology patients, and underuse of services by oncologists despite improvements with the introduction of a symptom assessment form and referral system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e401-e407
JournalJournal of Oncology Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Health Policy
  • Oncology


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