Caminiti C, Annunziata MA, Verusio C, et al. Effectiveness of a Psychosocial Care Quality Improvement Strategy to Address Quality of Life in Patients With Cancer: The HuCare2 Stepped-Wedge Cluster Randomized Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Oct 1;4(10):e2128667. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.28667. (Original study)

Importance: Many patients with cancer who would benefit from psychosocial care do not receive it. Implementation strategies may favor the integration of psychosocial care into practice and improve patient outcomes.

Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of the Humanization in Cancer Care (HuCare) Quality Improvement Strategy vs standard care as improvement of at least 1 of 2 domains (emotional or social function) of patient health-related quality of life at baseline and 3 months. A key secondary aim included investigation of the long-term effect.

Design, Setting, and Participants: HuCare2 was a multicenter, incomplete, stepped-wedge cluster randomized clinical trial, conducted from May 30, 2016, to August 28, 2019, in three 5-center clusters of cancer centers representative of hospital size and geographic location in Italy. The study was divided into 5 equally spaced epochs. Implementation sequence was defined by a blinded statistician; the nature of the intervention precluded blinding for clinical staff. Participants included consecutive adult outpatients with newly diagnosed cancer of any type and stage starting medical cancer treatment.

Interventions: The HuCare Quality Improvement Strategy comprised (1) clinician communication training, (2) on-site visits for context analysis and problem-solving, and (3) implementation of 6 evidence-based recommendations.

Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was the difference between the means of changes of individual scores in emotional or social functions of health-related quality of life detected at baseline and 3-month follow-up (within each group) and during the postintervention epoch compared with control periods (between groups). Long-term effect of the intervention (at 12 months) was assessed as a secondary outcome. Intention-to-treat analysis was used.

Results: A total of 762 patients (475 [62.3%] women) were enrolled (400 HuCare Quality Improvement Strategy and 362 usual care); mean (SD) age was 61.4 (13.1) years. The HuCare Quality Improvement Strategy significantly improved emotional function during treatment (odds ratio [OR], 1.13; 95% CI, 1.04-1.22; P = .008) but not social function (OR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.89-1.09; P = .80). Effect on emotional function persisted at 12 months (OR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.00-1.10; P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance: In this trial, the HuCare Quality Improvement Strategy significantly improved the emotional function aspect of health-related quality of life during cancer treatment and at 12 months, indicating a change in clinician behavior and in ward organization. These findings support the need for strategies to introduce psychosocial care; however, more research is needed on factors that may maximize the effects.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03008993.

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Comments from MORE raters

Physician rater

This strategy improves (only) the emotional function.

Physician rater

A statistically significant benefit is not synonymous with a clinically significant one.
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