UW News

May 9, 2002

New grant supports evaluation of care at end of life

Marjorie Wenrich
Medical Affairs

Dr. J. Randall Curtis, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, will receive $1.5 million from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to validate a questionnaire that assesses physicians’ skills at caring for patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses and to identify markers of high quality end-of-life care.

The three-year grant will use several evaluation instruments, including the questionnaire developed through a previous study, to assess the quality of end-of-life care provided by physicians who commonly care for patients at end-of-life, including oncologists, pulmonologists, cardiologists, and nursing home physicians. The questionnaire assesses multiple areas of performance, especially physicians’ communications skills. Findings from the study will be used to develop and assess interventions to improve physician skill at end-of-life. Sixty physicians in Washington and Oregon and 60 physicians in North Carolina and South Carolina will be recruited to participate. Dr. Gerard Silvestri at the Medical University of South Carolina is principal investigator for the Southeast portion of the study.

Other investigators on the three-year grant are Dr. Paul Ramsey, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine; Dr. Donald Patrick, professor of health services in the School of Public Health; Dr. Jan Carline, professor of medical education; Ruth Engelberg, research statistician in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine; and Marjorie Wenrich, director of medical affairs special research and communication projects in the Office of the Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine.

Curtis heads the End-of-Life Care Research Program at Harborview Medical Center (http://depts.washington.edu/~eolcare/). Through this program, clinical and health services investigators and staff undertake projects to improve end-of-life care and conduct clinical education for medical and nursing staff interested in improving patient-clinician communication about end-of-life care and improving the quality of care at the end of life. The program is also conducting research on ways to improve end-of-life care in the cross-cultural setting.

Curtis, along with Dr. Gordon D. Rubenfeld, assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, has edited a book, Managing Care in the Intensive Care Unit, published by Oxford University Press. This year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation purchased 5000 copies of the book and distributed two copies to all intensive care units in the United States with more than four beds as a means of educating clinicians about end-of-life issues in the intensive care setting. Curtis, a former faculty scholar with the Project on Death in America and past recipient of the UW Department of Medicine’s Fialkow Scholar Award, recently received the Roger C. Bone Advances in End-of-Life Care Award from the CHEST Foundation.

Curtis can be contacted at 206-731-2106 or jrc@u.washington.edu