Feasibility and Pilot Studies in Palliative Care Research: A Systematic Review

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Journal Article
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 2017, 54 (1), pp. 139 - 151.e4
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© 2017 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Context Feasibility and pilot study designs are common in palliative care research. Finding standard guidelines on the structure and reporting of these study types is difficult. Objectives In feasibility and pilot studies in palliative care research, to determine 1) how commonly a priori feasibility are criteria reported and whether results are subsequently reported against these criteria? and 2) how commonly are participants' views on acceptability of burden of the study protocol assessed? Methods Four databases (OVID Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PubMed via caresearch.com.au.) were searched. Search terms included palliative care, terminal care, advance care planning, hospice, pilot, feasibility, with a publication date between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013. Articles were selected and appraised by two independent reviewers. Results Fifty-six feasibility and/or pilot studies were included in this review. Only three studies had clear a priori criteria to measure success. Sixteen studies reported participant acceptability or burden with measures. Forty-eight studies concluded feasibility. Conclusion The terms “feasibility” and “pilot” are used synonymously in palliative care research when describing studies that test for feasibility. Few studies in palliative care research outline clear criteria for success. The assessment of participant acceptability and burden is uncommon. A gold standard for feasibility study design in palliative care research that includes both clear criteria for success and testing of the study protocol for participant acceptability and burden is needed. Such a standard would assist with consistency in the design, conduct and reporting of feasibility and pilot studies.
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