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Objectifying the Subjective: The Use of Heart Rate Variability as a Psychosocial Symptom Biomarker in Hospice and Palliative Care Research

  • Mallory R. Taylor
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Mallory R. Taylor, MD, MS, Seattle Children's Research Institute, 1920 Terry Ave, MS Cure 4, Seattle, WA 98101.
    Affiliations
    University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Seattle, Washington, USA

    Palliative Care and Resilience Lab, Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Seattle Children's Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA
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  • Samantha R. Scott
    Affiliations
    Palliative Care and Resilience Lab, Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Seattle Children's Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA

    Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA
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  • Angela Steineck
    Affiliations
    University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Seattle, Washington, USA

    Palliative Care and Resilience Lab, Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Seattle Children's Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA
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  • Abby R. Rosenberg
    Affiliations
    University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Seattle, Washington, USA

    Palliative Care and Resilience Lab, Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Seattle Children's Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA
    Search for articles by this author

      Abstract

      Measuring psychosocial symptoms in hospice and palliative care research is critical to understanding the patient and caregiver experience. Subjective patient-reported outcome tools have been the primary method for collecting these data in palliative care, and the growing field of biobehavioral research offers new tools that could deepen our understanding of psychosocial symptomatology. Here we describe one psychosocial biomarker, heart rate variability (HRV), and simple techniques for measurement in an adolescent and young adult cancer population that are applicable to palliative care studies. Complementing self-reported measures with objective biomarkers like HRV could facilitate a more nuanced understanding of physiologic and perceived well-being in patients with serious or life-limiting illness and inform future "precision supportive care" in hospice and palliative medicine.

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