Early palliative care leads to meaningful improvements in physical and psychosocial symptoms, as well as quality of life, in patients with advanced cancer. Patients with haematological malignancies, despite a high level of distress, continue to have less access to palliative care services. The aim of this study was to identify haematologists’ perceptions of palliative care, as well as barriers to patient referral.
We used a qualitative grounded theory methodology. Twenty-four medical haematologists involved in clinical practice from two French centres in Lyon—the Lyon Sud University Hospital and the Léon Bérard Cancer Center—were included. The interview guide questions aimed to establish the clinical situations which triggered referral to palliative care and how participants perceived palliative care.
Data saturation was reached after 14 interviews. The data analysis highlighted four themes. The aim of palliative care was clearly identified as alleviating severe suffering. Palliative care was identified as a separate specialty, and respondents expressed the need for collaboration. Early intervention was perceived as beneficial to avoid certain situations such as hospitalisation or emergency department visits at the end of life. The main barrier to palliative care referral remained the negative connotations associated with the term ‘palliative’, which was overwhelmingly associated with the end of life.
Our results suggest that the principal barrier to palliative care referral is the term ‘palliative care’; haematologists would prefer ‘supportive care’ instead.