Introduction: Little is known about the impact of translation of pain management clinical practice guidelines on pain control in paediatrics. In an effort to overcome this, a longitudinal, nation-wide, multi-centre paediatric quality improvement (QI) study was initiated by the German Society of Pediatric Haematology and Oncology (GPOH) entitled Schmerz-Therapie in der Onkologischen Paediatrie (STOP).
Objective: The project's primary major aims were to improve paediatric oncology pain control in Germany, and to evaluate the project's impact on the pain management quality. To achieve these aims, STOP encompassed six sequential phases to evaluate present practice, develop recommendations for practical pain control, actively engage participants in improvement strategies, and assess change. The purpose of this paper is to briefly describe STOP in its entirety, report on comparisons between active quality management (QM) departments that actively participated in the project and non-active QM departments regarding differences in pain control, patients’ and parents’ perspectives on pain control and health professionals’ knowledge, and to discuss the impact of STOP as a whole.
Methods: Four hypotheses were examined: (1) changes in health care professionals’ knowledge on pain in paediatric oncology and pain management after a three-year period (2) impact of active participation in the STOP-project; (3) differences in patients’ and parents’ perspective in active QM versus non-active QM departments; (4) impact of the STOP-project on the health care professionals’ knowledge in active QM versus non-active QM departments. Data included surveys, interviews, and standardised pre-/post-intervention documentation of pain control. All German paediatric oncology departments were invited to participate. The prime means of intervention was education (printed material, passive participation; additional lectures and feed-back, active participation). Quality indicators were defined and compared with regards to the four hypotheses.
Results: Sixty-eight departments participated passively. Eight departments participated actively, enrolling 224 patients (median age, 9 years) and documenting a total of 2265 treatment days. In the areas addressed, all health professionals demonstrated increases in knowledge on pain and pain control after a three-year period. STOP objectively improved pain control in the actively participating departments. Painful modes of drug administration were used less frequently; the usage of mixed opioid agonists-antagonists was reduced; the physicians’ knowledge of the treatment of neuropathic pain increased; pain ratings significantly decreased, and less episodes of strong pain were observed. There was a significant increase in the proportion of health-care professionals who post-interventionally judged that pain therapy had been initiated earlier and at exactly the right time. Neither patients nor parents felt, however, that there was any quality improvement. According to participants’ self-assessment, STOP improved practical pain management in actively participating departments, while in passively participating departments the change to the better was negligible.
Conclusion: STOP predominantly aimed at and succeeded in the improvement of structure, process and outcome quality. With regard to patients’ and parents’ opinions, the interview tools might have been unsuited to measure the quality of pain control, or STOP was insufficient to improve pain control to a magnitude significant to the patient.