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Review
October 24, 2019

Population-Based Quality Indicators for End-of-Life Cancer Care: A Systematic Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 2King’s College Hospital National Health Service Foundation Trust, Denmark Hill, London, United Kingdom
  • 3Medical Student, King’s College London GKT School of Medical Education, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(1):142-150. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.3388
Key Points

Question  Are population-based quality indicators for the care of patients with cancer who have advanced disease and/or are at the end of life appropriate for use?

Findings  In this systematic review, 288 quality indicators (260 unique), extracted from 35 references to 28 individual studies, for the care of patients with cancer who had advanced disease and/or who were at the end of life were identified, of which 27.8% were appropriate for use, 40.3% were inappropriate for use, and 31.9% were of limited testing. Acceptability and validity had the fewest positive assessments; benchmarking data were reported for only 16 quality indicators.

Meaning  The findings suggest that only a small proportion of quality indicators developed for the care of patients with cancer who have advanced disease and/or are at the end of life have received adequate testing and/or are appropriate for use.

Abstract

Importance  Improving the quality of cancer care is an international priority. Population-based quality indicators (QIs) are key to this process yet remain almost exclusively used for evaluating care during the early, often curative, stages of disease.

Objectives  To identify all existing QIs for the care of patients with cancer who have advanced disease and/or are at the end of life and to evaluate each indicator’s measurement properties and appropriateness for use.

Evidence Review  For this systematic review, 5 electronic databases (MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Library) were searched from inception through February 4, 2019, for studies describing the development, review, and/or testing of QIs for the care of patients with cancer who have advanced disease and/or are at the end of life. For each QI identified, descriptive information was extracted and 6 measurement properties (acceptability, evidence base, definition, feasibility, reliability, and validity) were assessed using previously established criteria, with 4 possible ratings: positive, intermediate, negative, and unknown. Ratings were collated and each QI classified as appropriate for use, inappropriate for use, or of limited testing. Among the QIs determined as appropriate for use, a recommended shortlist was generated by excluding those that were specific to patient subgroups and/or care settings; related QIs were identified, and the indicator with the highest rating was retained.

Findings  The search yielded 7231 references, 35 of which (from 28 individual studies) met the eligibility criteria. Of 288 QIs extracted (260 unique), 103 (35.8%) evaluated physical aspects of care and 109 (37.8%) evaluated processes of care. Quality indicators relevant to psychosocial (18 [6.3%]) or spiritual and cultural (3 [1.0%]) care domains were limited. Eighty QIs (27.8%) were determined to be appropriate for use, 116 (40.3%) inappropriate for use, and 92 (31.9%) of limited testing. The measurement properties with the fewest positive assessments were acceptability (38 [13.2%]) and validity (63 [21.9%]). Benchmarking data were reported for only 16 QIs (5.6%). The final 15 recommended QIs came from 6 studies.

Conclusions and Relevance  The findings suggest that only a small proportion of QIs developed for the care of patients with cancer who have advanced disease and/or are at the end of life have received adequate testing and/or are appropriate for use. Further testing may be needed, as is research to establish benchmarking data and to expand QIs relevant to psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual care domains.

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