Qualitative Study of Pediatric Early Warning Systems' Impact on Interdisciplinary Communication in Two Pediatric Oncology Hospitals With Varying Resources


PURPOSE: Hospitalized pediatric oncology patients are at high risk of deterioration and require frequent interdisciplinary communication to deliver high-quality care. Pediatric early warning systems (PEWS) are used by hospitals to reduce deterioration, but it is unknown how these systems affect communication about patient care in high- and limited-resource pediatric oncology settings. METHODS: This qualitative study included semistructured interviews describing PEWS and subsequent team communication at 2 pediatric cancer centers, 1 in the United States and 1 in Guatemala. Participants included nurses, and frontline and intensive care providers who experienced recent deterioration events. Transcripts were coded and analyzed inductively using MAXQDA software. RESULTS: The study included 41 providers in Guatemala and 42 providers in the United States (33 nurses, 30 ward providers, and 20 pediatric intensive care providers). Major themes identified include "hierarchy," "empowerment," "quality and method of communication," and "trigger." All providers described underlying medical hierarchies affecting the quality of communication regarding patient deterioration events and identified PEWS as empowering. Participants from the United States described the algorithmic approach to care and technology associated with PEWS contributing to impaired clinical judgement and a lack of communication. In both settings, PEWS sparked interdisciplinary communication and inspired action. CONCLUSION: PEWS enhance interdisciplinary communication in high- and limited-resource study settings by empowering bedside providers. Traditional hierarchies contributed to negative communication and, in well-resourced settings, technology and automation resulted in lack of communication. Understanding contextual elements is integral to optimizing PEWS and improving pediatric oncology outcomes in hospitals of all resource levels.

Publication Title

JCO global oncology