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Sara Hayes, Brian M. Green, Shayna Yeates, Amrita Bhowmick, Kaitlyn McNamara and Leslie Beth Herbert

Background: Despite NCCN Guidelines and clear definition of palliative care, patients often carry misperceptions about palliative care and how it can be beneficially integrated into a patient’s care plan. In order to better understand the misinformation about palliative and hospice care, this study aims to assess patient-healthcare provider (HCP) communication regarding treatment decisions. Methods: An online survey was conducted with individuals who have had a diagnosis of cancer (n=1,517) to better understand their healthcare experiences as well as the impact their cancer diagnosis had on their quality of life. Measures included agreement scale questions assessing patient information needs surrounding treatment decision making. Open-ended questions where respondents were prompted to provide a written response allowed researchers to further assess patients’ understanding of palliative and hospice care. Responses to agreement-scale questions were evaluated using descriptive statistics. Openended question responses were analyzed using Dedoose qualitative data analysis software. Results: Among patients with a diagnosis of cancer, there were a broad range of patient misperceptions regarding palliative care, hospice care, and how they are used in cancer care. The majority of respondents (81%) stated that their HCP played a role when deciding on their treatment plan. Despite this, only 46% were confident they knew about the treatment’s impact on their daily life, 56% were confident they knew about the potential side effects of treatment, and 57% felt they had all of the information they needed. Themes identified through qualitative analysis include: patient conflation of palliative and hospice care, belief that palliative and hospice care are only relevant to end-of-life decision-making, and uncertainty about whether quality of life can actually be improved. Conclusions: Institutions and HCPs are recommended to integrate palliative care into cancer care. However, as this research shows, oncology patients are often misinformed about the benefits of palliative care. This follows a parallel concern of patients making treatment decisions without optimal information. A potential factor behind this unmet need may be lack of effective communication between patient and HCP. Palliative care may be mentioned by the HCP, but not discussed with enough empathy or depth, leading to patient misunderstanding and lack of inclusion in treatment plans.