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Should Outpatient Palliative Care Clinics in Cancer Centers be Stand Alone or Embedded?

      Abstract

      Outpatient palliative care facilitates timely symptom management, psychosocial care and care planning. A growing number of cancer centers have either stand-alone or embedded outpatient palliative care clinics. In this “Controversies in Palliative Care” article, three groups of thought leaders independently answer this question. Specifically, each group provides a synopsis of the key studies that inform their thought processes, share practical advice on their clinical approach, and highlight the opportunities for future research. One group advocates for stand-alone clinics, another for embedded, and the third group tries to find a balance. In the absence of evidence that directly compares the two models, factors such as cancer center size, palliative care team composition, clinic space availability, and financial considerations may drive the decision-making process at each institution. Stand-alone clinics may be more appropriate for larger academic cancer centers or palliative care programs with a more comprehensive interdisciplinary team, while embedded clinics may be more suited for smaller palliative care programs or community oncology programs to stimulate referrals. As outpatient clinic models continue to evolve, investigators need to document the referral and patient outcomes to inform practice.

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