BACKGROUND: The best possible care for frail older patients at the end of life can require the integration of geriatric and palliative approaches, possibly with different accentuations at different times. General practitioners (GP) are particularly important in this context: they provide patients with low-threshold primary care close to their homes and provide both general palliative care and geriatric services.
OBJECTIVE: What are the challenges for GPs in caring for frail older patients at the end of their lives?
MATERIAL AND METHODS: A secondary data analysis of 52 qualitative interviews was carried out, which were serially obtained at 4 points in time over a period of 18 months with 14 family doctors. In addition, one focus group with five GPs took place. The analysis was carried out according to the principles of grounded theory.
RESULTS: The results show that GPs see the care of frail older patients at the end of their lives through a) the growing number of older people, b) multimorbidity and complexity of the problem areas, c) the integration of geriatric and palliative approaches, d) the high average age of general practitioners and the lack of junior staff and e) the problem of ensuring care in rural areas as a major challenge. The practical transition between geriatric and palliative care is considered by GPs to be fluid and there is a desire for more integration of both disciplines.
CONCLUSION: In this study GPs perceived a large overlap between geriatric and palliative care. Both approaches should be offered for a selection of patients as a combined service. In the future a systematic network between GPs and geriatricians in practices, clinics, and day clinics will be necessary.
BACKGROUND: At the end of life, about 85-90% of patients can be treated within primary palliative care (PC) provided by general practitioners (GPs). In Germany, there is no structured approach for the provision of PC by GPs including a systematic as well as timely identification of patients who might benefit from PC, yet. The project "Optimal care at the end of life" (OPAL) focusses on an improvement of primary PC for patients with both oncological and non-oncological chronic progressive diseases in their last phase of life provided by GPs and health care services.
METHODS: OPAL will take place in Hameln-Pyrmont, a rural region in Lower Saxony, Germany. Target groups are (a) GPs, (b) relatives of deceased patients and (c) health care providers. The study follows a three-phase approach in a mixed-methods and pre-post design. In phase I (baseline, t0) we explore the usual practice of providing PC for patients with chronic progressive diseases by GPs and the collaboration with other health care providers. In phase II (intervention) the Supportive and Palliative Care Indicators Tool (SPICT) for the timely identification of patients who might benefit from PC will be implemented and tested in general practices. Furthermore, a public campaign will be started to inform stakeholders, to connect health care providers and to train change agents. In phase III (follow-up, t1) we investigate the potential effect of the intervention to evaluate differences in the provision of PC by GPs and to convey factors for the implementation of SPICT in general practices.
DISCUSSION: The project OPAL is the first study to implement the SPICT-DE regionwide in general practices in Germany. The project OPAL may contribute to an overall optimisation of primary PC for patients in Germany by reducing GPs' uncertainty in initiating PC, by consolidating their skills and competencies in identifying patients who might benefit from PC, and by improving the cooperation between GPs and different health care stakeholders.
BACKGROUND: The Supportive and Palliative Care Indicators tool (SPICT) supports the identification of patients with potential palliative care (PC) needs. An Austrian-German expert group translated SPICT into German (SPICT-DE) in 2014. The aim of this study was the systematic development, refinement, and testing of SPICT-DE for its application in primary care (general practice).
METHODS: SPICT-DE was developed by a multiprofessional research team according to the TRAPD model: translation, review, adjudication, pretesting and documentation. In a pretest, five general practitioners (GPs) rated four case vignettes of patients with different PC needs. GPs were asked to assess whether each patient might benefit from PC or not (I) based on their subjective appraisal ("usual practice") and (II) by using SPICT-DE. After further refinement, two focus groups with 28 GPs (68% with a further qualification in PC) were conducted to test SPICT-DE. Again, participants rated two selected case vignettes (I) based on their subjective appraisal and (II) by using SPICT-DE. Afterwards, participants reflected the suitability of SPICT-DE for use in their daily practice routine within the German primary care system. Quantitative data were analysed with descriptive statistics and non-parametric tests for small samples. Qualitative data were analysed by conventional content analysis. Focus group discussion was analysed combining formal and conventional content analysis.
RESULTS: Compared to the spontaneous rating of the case vignettes based on subjective appraisal, participants in both the pretest and the focus groups considered PC more often as being beneficial for the patients described in the case vignettes when using SPICT-DE. Participants in the focus groups agreed that SPICT-DE includes all relevant indicators necessary for an adequate clinical identification of patients who might benefit from PC.
CONCLUSIONS: SPICT-DE supports the identification of patients who might benefit from PC and seems suitable for routine application in general practice in Germany. The systematic development, refinement, and testing of SPICT-DE in this study was successfully completed by using a multiprofessional and participatory approach.