Background: Approximately 500,000 children in the United States suffer from serious illnesses each year and 50,000 die annually. Hospice and palliative care services are known to be beneficial for many children with serious illnesses and their families; however, hospice services only reach about 10% of eligible children who die in the United States, with the majority of pediatric patients receiving care through adult hospice organizations. Program Design: The Quality of Life for All (QoLA) Kids program, established in August 2012, is an outpatient, community-based pediatric palliative care and hospice program that strives to enhance quality of life for pediatric patients and families, provide care coordination across multiple settings, mitigate physical, psychosocial, and spiritual distress, ensure a comfortable and peaceful death in the patient’s preferred setting, and support bereaved family members and hospital staff. The program represents a partnership between two MAGNET-certified pediatric hospitals and a local home health and hospice agency. QoLA Kids comprises an extensive interdisciplinary team including physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, medical social workers, spiritual counselors, child life specialists, and administrative support staff. Patients are enrolled on either the palliative care or hospice arm of the program, with flexibility to transition easily between arms as clinical status and goals of care evolve. Eligibility for the hospice arm necessitates an expected prognosis of 6 months or less left to live. Program Impact: Since programmatic inception nearly 6 years ago, QoLA Kids has served a total of 330 children and families in the local catchment area. Approximately 41% of patients (n=135) were enrolled on the palliative arm, with the remaining 59% enrolled on hospice (n=195). Between 2012-2017, the mean number of days from enrollment to death was 142 days for patients on the hospice arm (n=76) and 288 for patients on the palliative care arm (n=5). The percentage of patients with malignancies who received palliative care prior to death increased from 71% to 97% within 2 years following program implementation. Conclusions/Future Directions: QoLA Kids is an innovative program that facilitates the provision of palliative care and hospice services and resources to children with serious illness and their families in the community. Through this program, children and families have been able to access palliative care services in their community well before the end of life. After program initiation, an increase in the number of palliative care consults was also seen within the pediatric oncology patient population suggesting that the program may provide an incentive for referral to palliative care. Further investigation is needed to identify optimal metrics for ascertaining the physical and psychosocial benefits from this innovative program.
Development of an innovative program to improve provision of palliative and hospice care to children and families in the community: the story of QoLA Kids
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Ashley C. Kiefer, Erica C. Kaye, Lindsay J. Blazin, Justin N. Baker; Development of an innovative program to improve provision of palliative and hospice care to children and families in the community: the story of QoLA Kids. Pediatrics August 2019; 144 (2_MeetingAbstract): 442. 10.1542/peds.144.2MA5.442
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