Early-Integrated Palliative home care and standard care for end-stage COPD (EPIC): A Phase II pilot RCT testing feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness.


Authors: Charlotte Scheerens, Peter Pype, Jelle Van Cauwenberg, Gaëlle Vanbutsele, Kim Eecloo, Eric Derom, Simon Van Belle, Guy Joos, Luc Deliens, Kenneth Chambaere

Journal of pain and symptom management (2019)


While early-integrated palliative home care (PHC) is believed to be beneficial for COPD patients, trials testing this hypothesis are rare and show inconclusive results.


To test feasibility, acceptability and preliminary effectiveness of early-integrated PHC for end-stage COPD.


Testing a six-month early-integrated PHC pilot RCT given by PHC nurses for end-stage COPD with five components: (1) pre-inclusion COPD support training for PHC nurses; (2) monthly PHC visits; (3) leaflets on coping mechanisms; (4) a protocol on symptom management and support, a care and action plan; (5) integration of PHC and usual care through reporting and communication mechanisms. Patient-reported outcomes were assessed six-weekly. Participants and healthcare professionals involved were interviewed.


Of 70 eligible patients, 39 (56%) participated (20:19 intervention-control) and 64% completed the trial. A patient received on average 3.4 PHC visits, mainly for disease insight, symptom management and care planning. Nurses distributed all reports but hardly connected with health professionals except general practitioners (GPs); 8/10 interviewed patients referred to the psychosocial support, breathing exercises and care decisions as helpful. Some GPs criticised PHC being given too early but pulmonologists and PHC nurses did not. Effectiveness analysis showed no overall intervention effect for the outcomes, but between baseline and week 24 fewer hospitalisations in the control group (p=0.03) and a trend of higher perceived quality of care in the intervention group (p=0.06) was found. A clinically relevant difference was observed at week 24 for health-related quality of life in favour of the control group.


Our intervention on early-integrated PHC for end-stage COPD is feasible and accepted but did not yield the anticipated preliminary effectiveness. Before moving to a Phase III-trial, enhanced coordination of care, more GP involvement, more intensive training for PHC nurses in COPD support and revision of the trial design, e.g. of targeted outcomes in line with individual patient goals and care preferences should be improved.

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