​Palliative Care Research

Because UPMC is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute is able to conduct extensive research into how palliative and supportive care can affect patients and their families.

Our passion for learning more and helping others fuels our research, as we:

  • Examine how end-of-life decisions relate to the patient's physical status and emotional state.
  • Learn how families cope in times of stress and uncertainty.
  • Study how people respond to different approaches to care and communication.

Current Palliative Care Research Projects

Following are descriptions of some of our current research projects at the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute:

Title ​A Randomized Controlled Trial of SPIRIT: Representational Intervention to Promote End-of-Life Decision-Making Preparation
​Sponsor ​NIH
​What we'll study

​This mixed-methods study describes patients' perspectives of how they made the decision to start dialysis and to explore whether patients' perspectives of the decision-making process are associated with their values for life-sustaining treatment and end-of-life preferences.

  • Aim 1: Describe dialysis patients’ perceptions of the nature of decision-making in the initiation of dialysis (e.g., the decision-making context such as level of urgency, pre-emptive placement of a fistula, communication of an estimated prognosis, dialysis modality options, other treatment options, significant burdens associated with dialysis and irreversibility of dialysis, level of patient involvement during the decision-making).
  • Aim 2: Explore relationships of the nature of decision-making to patients’ end-of-life care preferences.


Title ​Surrogate Storytelling
Sponsor ​National Palliative Care Research Center
​When ​7/1/12 – 6/30/14
​What we'll study ​This pilot randomized trial measures the effect of storytelling in the early bereavement period on surrogate mental health outcomes. The intervention will allow surrogates to tell the story of their involvement in the decision to limit life-sustaining treatment for a loved one in the ICU.


​Title ​Outpatient Early Intervention Services with Respect to HIV Disease — Ryan White Title III (Part C)
​Sponsor ​HRSA
​When ​1/1/12 – 12/31/16
​What we'll study ​The Ryan White Early Intervention Project grant provides funding for comprehensive HIV primary care, psychosocial supportive services, specialty medical care, gynecological care, dental care, counseling and testing and drug and alcohol screening. This funding also provides laboratory services and pharmaceuticals for uninsured and underinsured patients being cared for at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment (PACT).


​Title ​​Geriatric Education Centers of Pennsylvania
​Sponsor ​HRSA
​When ​7/1/10 – 6/30/15
​What we'll study ​This five-year grant will allow us to educate nursing home clinicians about evidence-based palliative care interventions in an effort to improve the quality of life of nursing home residents.


​Title ​​End of Life in Very Old Age
​Sponsor ​NIH
​When ​1/1/11 – 12/31/15
​What we'll study ​In a follow-up of participants in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition cohort (Health-ABC), this prospective study will follow the clinical course of these participants, now age 85+, to characterize clinical trajectories and risk of death in very old age, assess participant and proxy decision-making, and examine predictors of hospitalization and emergency department care.


​Title ​​Pain, Sexual Dysfunction, and Depression in Hemodialysis Patient
​Sponsor ​VAPHS
​What we'll study ​The goal is to compare the effectiveness of two symptom management strategies among patients in hemodialysis units, measuring overall symptoms of pain, ED, and depression.


​Title ​​"Train-the-Trainer": Critical Care Communication Skills
​Sponsor ​Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
​When ​7/1/12 – 6/30/14
​What we'll study ​This is a national dissemination project to teach critical care fellows communication skills.  The goal of the project is to facilitate a cultural and systemic change within the field of critical care medicine to improve doctor-patient communication and the overall patient experience.


​Title ​​Describing Variation in IRB Efficiency, Quality, and Procedures
​Sponsor ​VA-IPA
​When ​11/1/12 – 9/30/14
​What we'll study ​Dr. Arnold will guide Dr. Hall in adapting and applying the methods for coding IRB review quality that he helped in his research develop to the project.


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