Palliative care symptom assessment for patients with cancer in the emergency department: Validation of the screen for palliative and end-of-life care needs in the emergency department instrument

Christopher T. Richards, Michael A. Gisondi, Chih Hung Chang, D. Mark Courtney, Kirsten G. Engel, Linda Emanuel, Tammie Quest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations


Objective: We sought to develop and validate a novel palliative medicine needs assessment tool for patients with cancer in the emergency department. Methods: An expert panel trained in palliative medicine and emergency medicine reviewed and adapted a general palliative medicine symptom assessment tool, the Needs at the End-of-Life Screening Tool. From this adaptation a new 13-question instrument was derived, collectively referred to as the Screen for Palliative and End-of-life care needs in the Emergency Department (SPEED). A database of 86 validated symptom assessment tools available from the palliative medicine literature, totaling 3011 questions, were then reviewed to identify validated test items most similar to the 13 items of SPEED; a total of107 related questions from the database were identified. Minor adaptations of questions were made for standardization to a uniform 10-point Likert scale. The 107 items, along with the 13 SPEED items were randomly ordered to create a single survey of 120 items. The 120-item survey was administered by trained staff to all patients with cancer who met inclusion criteria (age over 21 years, English-speaking, capacity to provide informed consent) who presented to a large urban academic emergency department between 8:00 am and 11:00 pm over a 10-week period. Data were analyzed to determine the degree of correlation between SPEED items and the related 107 selected items from previously validated tools. Results: A total of 53 subjects were enrolled, of which 49 (92%) completed the survey in its entirety. Fifty-three percent of subjects were male, age range was 24-88 years, and the most common cancer diagnoses were breast, colon, and lung. Cronbach coefficient α for the SPEED items ranged from 0.716 to 0.991, indicating their high scale reliability. Correlations between the SPEED scales and related assessment tools previously validated in other settings were high and statistically significant. Conclusion: The SPEED instrument demonstrates reliability and validity for screening for palliative care needs of patients with cancer presenting to the emergency department.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-764
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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