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Annals of Surgical Oncology

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Deficits in the Palliative Care Process Measures in Patients with Advanced Pancreatic Cancer Undergoing Operative and Invasive Nonoperative Palliative Procedures

Brooks V. Udelsman MD, MHS, Elizabeth J. Lilley MD, MPH, Motaz Qadan PhD, David C. Chang PhD, MBA, MPH, Keith D. Lillemoe MD, Charlotta Lindvall MD, PhD, Zara Cooper MD, MSc
Health Services Research and Global Oncology
Volume 26, Issue 13 / December , 2019



Given survival measured in months, metrics, such as 30-day mortality, are poorly suited to measure the quality of palliative procedures for patients with advanced cancer. Nationally endorsed process measures associated with high-quality PC include code-status clarification, goals-of-care discussions, palliative-care referral, and hospice assessment. The impact of the performance of these process measures on subsequent healthcare utilization is unknown.


Administrative data and manual review were used to identify hospital admissions with performance of palliative procedures for advanced pancreatic cancer at two tertiary care hospitals from 2011 to 2016. Natural language processing, a form of computer-assisted abstraction, identified process measures in associated free-text notes. Healthcare utilization was compared using a Cox proportional hazard model.


We identified 823 hospital admissions with performance of a palliative procedure. PC process measures were identified in 68% of admissions. Patients with documented process measures were older (66 vs. 63; p = 0.04) and had a longer length of stay (9 vs. 6 days; p < 0.001). In multivariate analysis, patients treated by surgeons were less likely to have PC process measures performed (odds ratio 0.19; 95% confidence interval 0.10–0.37). Performance of PC process measures was associated with decreased healthcare utilization in a Cox proportional hazard model.


PC process measures were not performed in almost one-third of hospital admissions for palliative procedures in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Performance of established high-quality process measures for seriously ill patients undergoing palliative procedures may help patients to avoid burdensome, high-intensity care at the end-of-life.

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