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“Hello. May I speak with someone, please? It's not about my physical pain.”: A retrospective study about the factors associated with phone calls to a Portuguese home-based palliative care team

, , Catarina Samorinha, Harvey Max Chochinov
Palliative and Supportive Care pp 1-6; doi:10.1017/s1478951521000183

Abstract: Objective Telephone availability is integrated into our home-based palliative care team (HPCT) with the aim of helping terminally ill patients and their caregivers alleviate their physical and psychosocial suffering, in addition to the team's home visits. We aimed to compare the differences between non-callers (patients with no phone calls during the team's follow-up period) vs. callers (≥1 phone call during the team's follow-up period) across sociodemographic, clinical, physical, and psychosocial variables. Method Retrospective analysis of all patients with and without phone call entries registered in our anonymized database, from October 2018 to September 2020. Results We analyzed 389 patients: 58% were male, and the average age was 71 years old; 84% had malignancies, with a mean palliative performance status of 45%. The majority of patients (n = 281, 72%) made at least one phone call to HPCT. On average, a mean of 2.5 calls (SD = 3.61; range: 0–26) per patient was registered. Callers compared with non-callers more frequently lived with someone (p = 0.030), preferred home as a place to die (p = 0.039), had more doctor (p = 0.010) and nurse home visits (p = 0.006), a prolonged HPCT follow-up time (p = 0.053), along with more frequent emergency room visits (p < 0.001) and hospitalizations (p = 0.043). Moreover, those who made at least one phone call to the HPCT had a higher frequency of conspiracy of silence (p = 0.046), anxiety (p = 0.044), and lower palliative performance status (p = 0.001). No statistically significant associations or differences were found for the other variables. Significance of results Several factors seem to correlate with an increased number of phone calls, and physical suffering does not play a relevant role in triggering contacts, in contrast with psychosocial and other clinical factors.
Keywords: Home-based palliative care / Phone calls / Retrospective study / Terminally ill

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