Refining a checklist for reporting patient populations and service characteristics in hospice and palliative care research

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Journal Article
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 2012, 43 (5), pp. 902 - 910
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Context: In specialist hospice and palliative care services, variations occur in diagnoses and prognoses of subpopulations referred, service configuration, and the health systems delivering care. These three levels of variation limit the ability to generalize study findings. Objectives: This article reports on coding one year of palliative care research using a previously developed checklist. The aims were to 1) quantify current reporting of factors related to generalizability in specialist palliative care research; 2) review and potentially refine the checklist in light of the first aim; 3) demonstrate the feasibility of collecting these data; and 4) set out simple processes to aid researchers in reporting, and clinicians in applying, new research evidence in hospice and palliative care. Methods: A previously published checklist (five domains, 14 core subdomains, and 24 noncore subdomains) was used to code all research articles (n = 189) published in 2007 in the three leading palliative care research journals. Results: The most frequently reported subdomains were patient age, gender, and diagnosis; model of service delivery; and patient performance status. Data in subdomains, including time from referral to death, socioeconomic indices, and ethnicity, were rarely reported; none reported whole-of-service or whole-of-population data. In total, 2646 (189 × 14) core subdomains could have been reported. Data were provided in 28% (746/2646). Conclusion: Checklists such as the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials evaluate study design, focusing mainly on internal validity. The proposed checklist deals with specific content of hospice and palliative care, focusing on external validity. © 2012 U.S. Cancer Pain Relief Committee Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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