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Use of Theoretical Frameworks in the Development and Testing of Palliative Care Interventions

      Abstract

      Context

      Palliative care (PC) research has grown over the last 20 years. Yet, the causal components and pathways of PC interventions remain unclear.

      Objectives

      To document the prevalence and application of theoretical frameworks in developing and testing PC interventions.

      Methods

      We conducted a secondary analysis of previously published systematic reviews of PC randomized clinical trials. Trials were evaluated for explicit mention of a theoretical framework, process or delivery model, or clinical practice guideline that supported the development of the intervention. We used a structured data extraction form to document study population, outcomes, and whether and how authors used a theoretical framework, process/delivery model, or clinical practice guideline. We applied an adapted coding scheme to evaluate use of theoretical frameworks.

      Results

      We reviewed 85 PC trials conducted between 1984 and 2021. Thirty-eight percent (n = 32) of trials explicitly mentioned a theoretical framework, process or delivery model, or clinical practice guideline as a foundation for the intervention design. Only nine trials included a theoretical framework, while the remaining 23 cited a process/delivery model or clinical practice guideline.

      Conclusion

      Most PC trials do not cite a theoretical foundation for their intervention design. Future work should focus on developing and validating new theoretical frameworks and modifying existing theories and models to better explain the mechanisms of the variety of PC interventions.

      Key Words

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