Palliative Care Communication Among Home Health Interprofessional Staff: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Feasibility, Acceptability, and Preliminary Effectiveness

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Skilled home health care (HH) is the largest and fastest growing long-term care setting in the United States. Patients in HH are served by an interprofessional team, and may have little direct contact with physicians, when discussing their progress, prognosis, and goals of care. Such conversations are part of primary palliative care communication. Evidence on primary palliative care communication training in the non-physician HH interprofessional team is lacking. The objectives of this study were to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effectiveness of using a palliative care communication model known as COMFORT© to provide palliative care communication training to HH staff. A randomized controlled trial was conducted at a regional health system in the southeastern U.S. to test online training modules (n = 10) (Group 1) and online training modules plus face-to-face training (n = 8) (Group 2). Measures included training completion rates, staff acceptability ratings, comfort with palliative and end-of-life communication (C-COPE) and moral distress (MMD-HP). Results showed that COMFORT© training was feasible (92%), highly acceptable (>4 on a 6-point scale), and positively correlated with improved C-COPE scores (P = .037). There was no significant difference in moral distress scores pre- and post-intervention or in effectiveness between the groups. However, acceptability of COMFORT© was positively correlated with history of leaving or considering leaving a job due to moral distress ( χ 2 = 7.6, P = .02). Preliminary findings from this pilot study suggest that administration of COMFORT© training was feasible, and it was correlated with increased HH staff comfort with palliative care communication.