The following article features coverage from the 2021 ASCO Quality Care Symposium. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.

A screening tool and communication process was found to aid identification of patients who would benefit from specialty palliative care consultation among inpatients with cancer. These findings were presented during the 2021 ASCO Quality Care Symposium.

At the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, only 16% of inpatients in the oncology unit between September and November of 2020 received a palliative care consultation, with 55% of them placed within 72 hours. In response to these low numbers, 20 nurses and 14 providers were surveyed on their thoughts about palliative care, team communication, and potential barriers to care consultations.

On the basis of survey responses, an evidence-based screening tool and multidisciplinary communication process was developed. The goal of the program was to increase palliative care consultations placed within 72 hours of admission to 65%. The screening tool was implemented in March 2021.

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Most of the 19 inpatients (68%) had a palliative care consultation placed by providers within 72 hours of hospital admission, and all patients who screened positive for need of palliative care received a consultation.

After the launch of the screening tool, 14 nurses and 9 providers reported discussing care needs more often during rounds (78%), most nurses thought criteria for palliative care consultation was clearer (63%), and most staff agreed that the tool enhanced multidisciplinary communication (57%).

All providers and 93% of nurses wanted to continue using the screening tool and advocated for the tool to be integrated into the electronic medical record system.

This program increased oncology inpatient consultations for palliative care (16% to 29%) and the percentage of palliative care consultations placed within 72 hours (55% to 68%).

Read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor’s coverage of the 2021 ASCO Quality Care Symposium by visiting the conference page.


Hazeltine A, Liziewski K, Lin A, et al. Enhancing palliative care consultation workflow on an inpatient oncology unit. J Clin Oncol. 2021;39(suppl 28):abstr 208. doi:10.1200/JCO.2020.39.28_suppl.208