Guidelines recommend that pulmonary clinicians involve palliative care in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); however, integration before advanced stage, that is, early palliative care, is rare.
To explore and compare pulmonary and palliative care clinician perspectives on barriers, facilitators, and potential referral criteria for early palliative care in COPD.
Qualitative descriptive formative evaluation study.
Pulmonary and palliative care clinicians at a tertiary academic medical center.
Transcribed interviews were thematically analyzed by specialty to identify within- and across-specialty perspectives on barriers, facilitators, and referral criteria.
Twelve clinicians (n = 6 pulmonary, n = 6 palliative care) participated. Clinicians from both specialties agreed that early palliative care could add value to disease-focused COPD care. Perspectives on many barriers and facilitators were shared between specialties along broad educational, clinical, and operational categories. Pulmonary and palliative care clinicians shared concerns about the misconception that palliative care was synonymous to end-of-life care. Pulmonologists were particularly concerned about the potential risks of opioids and benzodiazepines in COPD. Both specialties stressed the need for clearly defined roles, consensus referral criteria, and novel delivery models. Although no single referral criterion was discussed by all, frequent hospitalizations and emotional symptoms were raised by most across disciplines. Multimorbidity and poor prognosis were discussed only by palliative care clinicians, whereas medication adherence was discussed only by pulmonary clinicians.
Pulmonary and palliative care clinicians supported early palliative care in COPD. Continued needs include addressing pulmonologists' misconceptions of palliative care, establishing consensus referral criteria, and implementing novel early palliative care models.