Objectives: To set up a pragmatic Plan–Do–Study–Act cycle by analysing patient experiences and determinants of satisfaction with care in the last year of life.
Design: Cross-sectional postbereavement survey.
Setting: Regional health services research and development structure representing all health and social care providers involved in the last year of life in Cologne, a city with 1 million inhabitants in Germany.
Participants: 351 bereaved relatives of adult decedents, representative for age and gender, accidental and suspicious deaths excluded.
Results: For the majority (89%) of patients, home was the main place of care during their last year of life. Nevertheless, 91% of patients had at least one hospital admission and 42% died in hospital. Only 60% of informants reported that the decedent had been told that the disease was leading to death. Hospital physicians broke the news most often (58%), with their communication style often (30%) being rated as ‘not sensitive’. Informants indicated highly positive experiences with care provided by hospices (89% ‘good’) and specialist palliative home care teams (87% ‘good’). This proportion dropped to 41% for acute care hospitals, this rating being determined by the feeling of not being treated with respect and dignity (OR=23.80, 95% CI 7.503 to 75.498) and the impression that hospitals did not work well together with other services (OR=8.37, 95% CI 2.141 to 32.71).
Conclusions: Following those data, our regional priority for action now is improvement of care in acute hospitals, with two new projects starting, first, how to recognise and communicate a limited life span, and second, how to improve care during the dying phase. Results and further improvement projects will be discussed in a working group with the city of Cologne, and repeating this survey in 2 years will be able to measure regional achievements.
Trial registration number DRKS00011925.
BACKGROUND: Advance care planning (ACP) supports individuals to define, discuss, and record goals and preferences for future medical treatment and care. Despite being internationally recommended, randomised clinical trials of ACP in patients with advanced cancer are scarce.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: To test the implementation of ACP in patients with advanced cancer, we conducted a cluster-randomised trial in 23 hospitals across Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, and United Kingdom in 2015-2018. Patients with advanced lung (stage III/IV) or colorectal (stage IV) cancer, WHO performance status 0-3, and at least 3 months life expectancy were eligible. The ACTION Respecting Choices ACP intervention as offered to patients in the intervention arm included scripted ACP conversations between patients, family members, and certified facilitators; standardised leaflets; and standardised advance directives. Control patients received care as usual. Main outcome measures were quality of life (operationalised as European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer [EORTC] emotional functioning) and symptoms. Secondary outcomes were coping, patient satisfaction, shared decision-making, patient involvement in decision-making, inclusion of advance directives (ADs) in hospital files, and use of hospital care. In all, 1,117 patients were included (442 intervention; 675 control), and 809 (72%) completed the 12-week questionnaire. Patients' age ranged from 18 to 91 years, with a mean of 66; 39% were female. The mean number of ACP conversations per patient was 1.3. Fidelity was 86%. Sixteen percent of patients found ACP conversations distressing. Mean change in patients' quality of life did not differ between intervention and control groups (T-score -1.8 versus -0.8, p = 0.59), nor did changes in symptoms, coping, patient satisfaction, and shared decision-making. Specialist palliative care (37% versus 27%, p = 0.002) and AD inclusion in hospital files (10% versus 3%, p < 0.001) were more likely in the intervention group. A key limitation of the study is that recruitment rates were lower in intervention than in control hospitals.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that quality of life effects were not different between patients who had ACP conversations and those who received usual care. The increased use of specialist palliative care and AD inclusion in hospital files of intervention patients is meaningful and requires further study. Our findings suggest that alternative approaches to support patient-centred end-of-life care in this population are needed.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN registry ISRCTN63110516.
CONTEXT: Near the end of life when patients experience refractory symptoms, palliative sedation may be considered as a last treatment. Clinical guidelines have been developed, but they are mainly based on expert opinion or retrospective chart reviews. Therefore, evidence for the clinical aspects of palliative sedation is needed.
OBJECTIVES: To explore clinical aspects of palliative sedation in recent prospective studies.
METHODS: Systematic review conducted following PRISMA guidelines and registered at PROSPERO. PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane, Medline and Embase were searched (January 2014-December 2019), combining "sedation", "palliative care", "prospective". Article quality was assessed.
RESULTS: Ten prospective articles were included, involving predominantly cancer patients. Most frequently reported refractory symptoms were delirium (41-83%), pain (25-65%), and dyspnoea (16-59%). In some articles, psychological and existential distress were mentioned (16-59%). Only a few articles specified the tools used to assess symptoms. Level of sedation assessment tools were: the Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale, Ramsay Sedation Scale, Glasgow Coma Scale and Bispectral Index Monitoring. The palliative sedation practice shows an underlying need for proportionality in relation to symptom intensity. Midazolam was the main sedative used. Other reported medications were phenobarbital, promethazine and anaesthetic medication- propofol. The only study that reported level of patient's discomfort as a palliative sedation outcome showed a decrease in patient discomfort.
CONCLUSIONS: Assessment of refractory symptoms should include physical evaluation with standardised tools applied and interviews for psychological and existential evaluation by expert clinicians working in teams. Future research needs to evaluate the effectiveness of palliative sedation for refractory symptom relief.
The number of residents in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) in need of palliative care is growing in the Western world. Therefore, it is foreseen that significantly higher percentages of budgets will be spent on palliative care. However, cost-effectiveness analyses of palliative care interventions in these settings are lacking. Therefore, the objective of this paper was to assess the cost-effectiveness of the ‘PACE Steps to Success’ intervention. PACE (Palliative Care for Older People) is a 1-year palliative care programme aiming at integrating general palliative care into day-to-day routines in LTCFs, throughout seven EU countries.
BACKGROUND: Given the increase in the number of deaths within long-term care facilities (LTCFs), the need for palliative and end-of-life (EOL) care education among such facilities has been increasing. As such, a systematic synthesis of global palliative and EOL care educational approaches and evaluation can aid further educational development.
OBJECTIVE: To synthesise the current literature on palliative and EOL care educational interventions for staff working in LTCFs and identify barriers to, and facilitators of, intervention implementation.
METHODS: The study used an integrative review framework wherein indexed databases, namely, CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Cochrane Library and Japan Medical Abstract Society, were systematically searched for studies published in English and Japanese between 2007 and 2019. Search terms that are related to palliative care, LTCF, and education were combined to increase search sensitivity. The quality of the papers was assessed using Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Tools and the Mixed-Methods Appraisal Tool.
RESULTS: A total of 52 studies were included in the review. Our results suggested that although studies in this area and setting have been evolving, suboptimal developmental research and educational practices, global variability and unstandardised approaches to education and lacking viewpoints from service users have remained. Barriers to intervention implementation were also reported due to the specific characteristics of LTCFs, which include high staff turnover and considerable variation in professional skills and experience.
CONCLUSIONS: Given the different LTCF types, systems and policies across each country or region, further research on standardised educational interventions with contextual considerations using large-scale studies with robust methodology is needed to meet the increasing demand for palliative and EOL care among the global ageing population.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Palliative and EOL care educational intervention for LTCF staff need to include more consideration of context, organisational culture and the user involvement throughout the process of education and research to enhance the quality of care in this complex setting.
PURPOSE: Capitalizing on the promise of patient-reported outcomes (PROs), electronic implementations of PROs (ePROs) are expected to play an important role in the development of novel digital health interventions targeting palliative cancer care. We performed a systematic and mapping review of the scientific literature on the current ePRO-based approaches used for palliative cancer care.
METHODS: Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses statement guidelines, the conducted review answered the research questions: "What are the current ePRO-based approaches for palliative cancer care; what is their contribution/value in the domain of palliative cancer care; and what are the potential gaps, challenges, and opportunities for further research?" After a screening step, the corpus of included articles indexed in PubMed or the Web of Science underwent full text review, which mapped the articles across 15 predefined axes.
RESULTS: The corpus of 24 mapped studies includes 9 study protocols, 7 technical tools/solutions, 7 pilot/feasibility/acceptability studies, and 1 evaluation study. The review of the corpus revealed (1) an archetype of ePRO-enabled interventions for palliative cancer care, which most commonly use ePROs as study end point assessment instruments rather than integral intervention components; (2) the fact that the literature has not fully embraced the modern definitions that expand the scope of palliative care; (3) the striking shortage of promising ubiquitous computing devices (eg, smart activity trackers); and (4) emerging evidence about the benefits of narrowing down the target cancer population, especially when combined with modern patient-centered intervention design methodologies.
CONCLUSION: Although research on exploiting ePROs for the development of digital palliative cancer care interventions is considerably active and demonstrates several successful cases, there is considerable room for improvement along the directions of the aforementioned findings.
OBJECTIVES: PACE Steps to Success is a 1-year train-the-trainer program aiming to integrate nonspecialist palliative care into nursing homes via staff education and organizational support. In this study, we aimed to explore whether this program resulted in changes in residents' hospital use and place of death.
DESIGN: Secondary analysis of the PACE cluster randomized controlled trial (ISRCTN14741671). Data were collected on deaths over the previous 4 months via questionnaires at baseline and postintervention.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Questionnaires were completed by the nurse/care-assistant most involved from 78 nursing homes in 7 European Union countries.
MEASURES: We measured number of emergency department visits, hospital admissions, length of hospital stay, and place of death. Baseline and postintervention scores between intervention and control groups were compared, and we conducted exploratory mixed-model analyses. We collected 551 out of 610 questionnaires at baseline and 984 out of 1178 at postintervention in 37 intervention and 36 control homes.
RESULTS: We found no statistical significant effects of the program on emergency department visits [odds ratio (OR) = 1.38, P = .32], hospital admissions (OR = 0.98, P = .93), length of hospital stay (geometric mean difference = 0.85, P = .44), or place of death (OR = 1.08, P = .80).
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: We found no effect of the PACE program on either hospital use in the last month of life or place of death. Although this may be related to implementation problems in some homes, the program might also require a more specific focus on managing acute end-of-life situations and a closer involvement of general practitioners or specialist palliative care services to influence hospital use or place of death.
BACKGROUND: Innovative service models to facilitate end-of-life care for older people may be required to enable and bolster networks of care. The aim of this study was to understand how and why a new charitably funded service model of end-of-life care impacts upon the lives of older people.
METHODS: A multiple exploratory qualitative case study research strategy. Cases were 3 sites providing a new end-oflife service model for older people. The services were provided in community settings, primarily providing support in peoples own homes. Study participants included the older people receiving the end-of-life care service, their informal carers, staff providing care within the service and other stakeholders. Data collection included individual interviews with older people and informal carers at 2 time points, focus group interviews with staff and local stakeholders, nonparticipant observation of meetings, and a final cross-case deliberative panel discussion workshop. Framework analysis facilitated analysis within and across cases.
RESULTS: Twenty-three service users and 5 informal carers participated in individual interviews across the cases. Two focus groups were held with an additional 12 participants, and 19 people attended the deliberative panel workshop. Important elements contributing to the experience and impacts of the service included organisation, where services felt they were 'outsiders,' the focus of the services and their flexible approach; and the impacts particularly in enriching relationships and improving mental health.
CONCLUSION: These end-of-life care service models operated in a space between the healthcare system and the person's life world. This meant there could be ambiguity around their services, where they occupied a liminal, but important, space. These services are potentially important to older people, but should not be overly constrained or they may lose the very flexibility that enables them to have impact.
Background: Access to community palliative care ‘out-of-hours’ – defined as care provided after the normal hours of work – is advocated globally. Healthcare assistants, who provide care under the direction of a qualified professional, are increasingly employed to help deliver such care, yet there is a little understanding regarding their role, responsibilities or contribution.
Aim: The aim of this study was to identify the roles, responsibilities and contributions of healthcare assistants in out-of-hours community palliative care.
Design: Scoping review
Data sources: Five bibliographic databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and Scopus) and grey literature were searched using a predefined search strategy. The review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews statement.
Results: The search yielded six papers using quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. Results highlighted a lack of recognition of the role and contribution of healthcare assistants. A concurrent theme was that healthcare assistants continually monitored and responded to patient’s and family’s physical and emotional needs; there was also self-reported evidence indicating patient and family benefit, such as maintaining a sense of normality and support to remain at home.
Discussion: This review highlighted a dearth of evidence relating to the healthcare assistant role in out-of-hours palliative care. Limited evidence suggests they play a role, but that it is hidden and undervalued. Such invisibility will have a significant impact on the planning and delivery of out-of-hours palliative care. Future research is needed on role development for the benefit of patients and caregivers.
BACKGROUND: Developing recommendations for how we deliver healthcare is often left to leading experts in a field. Findings from the Integrated Palliative Care in cancer and chronic conditions (InSup-C) study, which aimed to identify best practice in integrated palliative care in cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure, led to recommendations developed through an expert consultation process. We also wanted to develop these recommendations further with participants who were largely clinicians and members of the public.
METHODS: Results from the InSup-C study were disseminated through a three-week massive open online course (MOOC) which ran in 2016, 2017 and 2019. The first course helped develop the final recommendations, which were ranked by MOOC participants in the subsequent courses. MOOC participants were predominantly clinicians, but also academics and members of the public. They rated how important each recommendation was on a 9 point scale (9 most important). Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the ratings. The results were compared to findings from the consultation.
RESULTS: Five hundred fifteen completed the last part of the course where the recommendations were ranked, of which 195 (38%) completed the ratings. The top recommendations related to: need to expand palliative care to non-malignant conditions; palliative care needs to include different dimensions of care including physical, psychological and spiritual; policies and regulations assessments should be made regularly; palliative care integration should be mandatory; and there should be greater availability of medicines. These differed compared to the top ranked recommendations by the consultation panel in relation to the importance of leadership and policy making. This may indicate that clinicians are more focused on daily care rather than the (inter) national agenda.
CONCLUSIONS: Whilst both sets of recommendations are important, our study shows that we need to include the views of clinicians and the public rather than rely upon leading expert opinion alone. To keep recommendations fresh we need both the input of clinicians, the public and experts. When disseminating findings, MOOCs offer a useful way to gain greater reach with clinicians and the public, and importantly could be a vehicle to validate recommendations made by leading expert panels.
Background/objectives: Opioids relieve symptoms in terminal care. We studied opioid underuse in long-term care facilities, defined as residents without opioid prescription despite pain and/or dyspnoea, 3 days prior to death.
Design and setting: In a proportionally stratified randomly selected sample of long-term care facilities in six European Union countries, nurses and long-term care facility management completed structured after-death questionnaires within 3 months of residents’ death.
Measurements: Nurses assessed pain/dyspnoea with Comfort Assessment in Dying with Dementia scale and checked opioid prescription by chart review. We estimated opioid underuse per country and per symptom and calculated associations of opioid underuse by multilevel, multivariable analysis.
Results: nurses’ response rate was 81.6%, 95.7% for managers. Of 901 deceased residents with pain/dyspnoea reported in the last week, 10.6% had dyspnoea, 34.4% had pain and 55.0% had both symptoms. Opioid underuse per country was 19.2% (95% confidence interval: 12.9–27.2) in the Netherlands, 25.2% (18.3–33.6) in Belgium, 29.3% (16.9–45.8) in England, 33.7% (26.2–42.2) in Finland, 64.6% (52.0–75.4) in Italy and 79.1% (71.2–85.3) in Poland (p < 0.001). Opioid underuse was 57.2% (33.0–78.4) for dyspnoea, 41.2% (95% confidence interval: 21.9–63.8) for pain and 37.4% (19.4–59.6) for both symptoms (p = 0.013). Odds of opioid underuse were lower (odds ratio: 0.33; 95% confidence interval: 0.20–0.54) when pain was assessed.
Conclusion: Opioid underuse differs between countries. Pain and dyspnoea should be formally assessed at the end-of-life and taken into account in physicians orders.
BACKGROUND: Research requires high-quality ethical and governance scrutiny and approval. However, when research is conducted across different countries, this can cause challenges due to the differing ethico-legal framework requirements of ethical boards. There is no specific guidance for research which does not involve non-medicinal products.
AIM: To describe and address differences in ethical and research governance procedures applied by research ethics committees for non-pharmaceutical palliative care studies including adult participants in collaborative European studies.
DESIGN: An online survey analysed using descriptive statistics.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Eighteen principal investigators in 11 countries conducting one of three European-funded studies.
RESULTS: There was variation in practice including whether ethical approval was required. The time to gain full approvals differed with the United Kingdom having governance procedures that took the longest time. Written consent was not required in all countries nor were data safety monitoring committees for trials. There were additional differences in relation to other data management issues.
CONCLUSION: Researchers need to take the differences in research approval procedures into account when planning studies. Future research is needed to establish European-wide recommendations for policy and practice that dovetail ethical procedures and enhance transnational research collaborations.
Objectives: We aimed to investigate the occurrence rates of clinical events and their associations with comfort in dying nursing home residents with and without dementia.
Methods: Epidemiological after-death survey was performed in nationwide representative samples of 322 nursing homes in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and England. Nursing staff reported clinical events and assessed comfort. The nursing staff or physician assessed the presence of dementia; severity was determined using two highly discriminatory staff-reported instruments.
Results: The sample comprised 401 residents with advanced dementia, 377 with other stages of dementia, and 419 without dementia (N = 1197). Across the three groups, pneumonia occurred in 24 to 27% of residents. Febrile episodes (unrelated to pneumonia) occurred in 39% of residents with advanced dementia, 34% in residents with other stages of dementia and 28% in residents without dementia (P = .03). Intake problems occurred in 74% of residents with advanced dementia, 55% in residents with other stages of dementia, and 48% in residents without dementia (P < .001). Overall, these three clinical events were inversely associated with comfort. Less comfort was observed in all resident groups who had pneumonia (advanced dementia, P = .04; other stages of dementia, P = .04; without dementia, P < .001). Among residents with intake problems, less comfort was observed only in those with other stages of dementia (P < .001) and without dementia (P = .003), while the presence and severity of dementia moderated this association (P = .03). Developing “other clinical events” was not associated with comfort.
Conclusions: Discomfort was observed in dying residents who developed major clinical events, especially pneumonia, which was not specific to advanced dementia. It is crucial to identify and address the clinical events potentially associated with discomfort in dying residents with and without dementia.
OBJECTIVES: The number of older people dying in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) is increasing globally, but care quality may be variable. A framework was developed drawing on empirical research findings from the Palliative Care for Older People (PACE) study and a scoping review of literature on the implementation of palliative care interventions in LTCFs. The PACE study mapped palliative care in LTCFs in Europe, evaluated quality of end-of-life care and quality of dying in a cross-sectional study of deceased residents of LTCFs in 6 countries, and undertook a cluster-randomized control trial that evaluated the impact of the PACE Steps to Success intervention in 7 countries. Working with the European Association for Palliative Care, a white paper was written that outlined recommendations for the implementation of interventions to improve palliative and end-of-life care for all older adults with serious illness, regardless of diagnosis, living in LTCFs. The goal of the article is to present these key domains and recommendations.
DESIGN: Transparent expert consultation.
SETTING: International experts in LTCFs.
PARTICIPANTS: Eighteen (of 20 invited) international experts from 15 countries participated in a 1-day face-to-face Transparent Expert Consultation (TEC) workshop in Bern, Switzerland, and 21 (of 28 invited) completed a follow-up online survey.
METHODS: The TEC study used (1) a face-to-face workshop to discuss a scoping review and initial recommendations and (2) an online survey.
RESULTS: Thirty recommendations about implementing palliative care for older people in LTCFs were refined during the TEC workshop and, of these, 20 were selected following the survey. These 20 recommendations cover domains at micro (within organizations), meso (across organizations), and macro (at national or regional) levels addressed in 3 phases: establishing conditions for action, embedding in everyday practice, and sustaining ongoing change.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: We developed a framework of 20 recommendations to guide implementation of improvements in palliative care in LTCFs.
This paper addresses the stories of volunteers in hospice and palliative care (HPC) from eight European countries. The aims of the paper are to explore the experiences of volunteers in HPC from their insider perspective, to understand why volunteers choose to work in this field and to understand what it means to them to be involved in palliative care in this way. Stories were collected by the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) Task Force for Volunteering contacts in each of the eight countries. The majority of stories (n = 32) came from volunteers involved in different settings including adult patient's homes, hospices, hospitals and care homes. Twenty volunteers were female, six were male, and ten did not give their gender. Stories were translated into English, and a qualitative framework analysis was performed. Volunteers were asked two questions: 'What do you do as a volunteer?' 'What does volunteering mean to you?' Three themes were identified from the data: (i) What volunteers do (ii) How volunteers approach their work and (iii) What working in HPC means to volunteers. The analysis revealed that common approaches to addressing and describing HPC volunteering in terms of tasks and roles could be expanded. To volunteers, it is not about tasks, but about a part of their life, the impact upon which can be significant. The results of this paper, therefore, add to the understanding of volunteers, in the sense of giving attention, being with, and of compassion as a community resource to patients and families in difficult situations. Theories about presence and presencing might have value in further underpinning this contribution to palliative care. Understanding the extent and depth of the volunteers' experience will help to prevent the undervaluing of their contribution and increase the impact of their involvement.
Objective: Even when medical treatments are limited, supporting patients’ coping strategies could improve their quality of life. Greater understanding of patients’ coping strategies, and influencing factors, can aid developing such support. We examined the prevalence of coping strategies and associated variables.
Methods: We used sociodemographic and baseline data from the ACTION trial, including measures of Denial, Acceptance, and Problem-focused coping (COPE; Brief COPE inventory), of patients with advanced cancer from six European countries. Clinicians provided clinical information. Linear mixed models with clustering at hospital level were used.
Results: Data from 675 patients with stage III/IV lung (342, 51%) or stage IV colorectal (333, 49%) cancer were used; mean age 66 (10 SD) years. Overall, patients scored low on Denial and high on Acceptance and Problem-focused coping. Older age was associated with higher scores on Denial than younger age (ß = 0.05; CI[0.023; 0.074]), and patients from Italy (ß = 1.57 CI[0.760; 2.388]) and Denmark (ß = 1.82 CI[0.881; 2.750]) scored higher on Denial than patients in other countries.
Conclusions: Patients with advanced cancer predominantly used Acceptance and Problem-focused coping, and Denial to a lesser extent. Since the studied coping strategies of patients with advanced cancer vary between subpopulations, we recommend taking these factors into account when developing tailored interventions to support patients’ coping strategies.
Background: There has been increasing evidence and debate on palliative care research priorities and the international research agenda. To date, however, there is a lack of synthesis of this evidence, examining commonalities, differences, and gaps. To identify and synthesize literature on international palliative care research priorities originating from Western countries mapped to a quality assessment framework.
Methods: A systematic review of several academic and grey databases were searched from January 2008–June 2019 for studies eliciting research priorities in palliative care in English. Two researchers independently reviewed, critically appraised, and conducted data extraction and synthesis.
Results: The search yielded 10,235 articles (academic databases, n = 4108; grey literature, n = 6127), of which ten were included for appraisal and review. Priority areas were identified: service models; continuity of care; training and education; inequality; communication; living well and independently; and recognising family/carer needs and the importance of families. Methodological approaches and process of reporting varied. There was little representation of patient and caregiver driven agendas. The priorities were mapped to the Donabedian framework for assessing quality reflecting structure, process and outcomes and key priority areas.
Conclusions: Limited evidence exists pertaining to research priorities across palliative care. Whilst a broad range of topics were elicited, approaches and samples varied questioning the credibility of findings. The voice of the care provider dominated, calling for more inclusive means to capture the patient and family voice. The findings of this study may serve as a template to understand the commonalities of research, identify gaps, and extend the palliative care research agenda.
BACKGROUND: The number of older people dying in long-term care facilities is increasing; however, care at the end of life can be suboptimal. Interventions to improve palliative care delivery within these settings have been shown to be effective in improving care, but little is known about their implementation.
AIM: The aim of this study was to describe the nature of implementation strategies and to identify facilitators and/or barriers to implementing palliative care interventions in long-term care facilities.
DESIGN: Scoping review with a thematic synthesis, following the ENTREQ guidelines.
DATA SOURCES: Published literature was identified from electronic databases, including MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and CINAHL. Controlled, non-controlled and qualitative studies and evaluations of interventions to improve palliative care in long-term care facilities were included. Studies that met the inclusion criteria were sourced and data extracted on the study characteristics, the implementation of the intervention, and facilitators and/or barriers to implementation.
RESULTS: The review identified 8902 abstracts, from which 61 studies were included in the review. A matrix of implementation was developed with four implementation strategies (facilitation, education/training, internal engagement and external engagement) and three implementation stages (conditions to introduce the intervention, embedding the intervention within day-to-day practice and sustaining ongoing change).
CONCLUSION: Incorporating an implementation strategy into the development and delivery of an intervention is integral in embedding change in practice. The review has shown that the four implementation strategies identified varied considerably across interventions; however, similar facilitators and barriers were encountered across the studies identified. Further research is needed to understand the extent to which different implementation strategies can facilitate the uptake of palliative care interventions in long-term care facilities.
As patients approach the end of life, they often experience a range of distressing symptoms and concerns such as pain, delirium, and breathlessness. Although most symptoms and concerns are amendable to pharmacological and/or nonpharmacological interventions, there may be some symptoms that are very difficult or impossible to treat or where available treatment options fail. These are called refractory symptoms because treatment (1) does not work, (2) the effects take too long to happen, or (3) the side effects are not acceptable to the patient. Refractory symptoms are not restricted to physical symptoms and, therefore, a multidimensional approach is needed to fully assess and manage the patient's condition. For example, existential suffering may be adding to the patient's physical suffering but can be particularly difficult to assess and manage. For this reason, the term intractable suffering is sometimes used. When conventional treatment options are no longer available and symptoms are considered refractory, the option of palliative sedation comes to the fore.
Background: In many countries, the consumption of opioid medicines is too low to meet population needs. Discussions within the Access To Opioid Medication in Europe project indicated that there may be significant differences in the perception of barriers for their adequate use, depending on the stakeholders.
Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the perception of barriers and their impact concerning opioid medicines, comparing policy makers, healthcare professionals working in the field of pain management, palliative care or harm reduction and other stakeholders.
Design: Data were collected using a questionnaire partially constructed from existing surveys, reviewed for content validity by four experts and pilot-tested in Latvia.
Setting/participants: Participants of the Access to Opioid Medication in Europe national conferences were invited to complete the questionnaire. Stakeholder groups were compared using non-parametric rank-sum tests.
Results: In total, 199 participants (54%) in seven countries completed the questionnaire. Most frequently rated major barriers included lack of financial resources and inadequate knowledge, skills and training among policy makers (55%–66%). Overall, policy makers perceived issues less often as major barriers or having major impact (29% barrier, 32% impact) compared to other stakeholders (36%–42% barrier, 39%–51% impact). Significant differences were seen on several aspects. For example, excessive regulation or bureaucracy for prescribing was rated as having major impact by 55%–57% of healthcare professionals in contrast to only 20% of the policy makers (p = 0.002).
Conclusion: Multiple barriers may play an important role, partly depending on the perspective of the stakeholder involved. Hence, when addressing perceived barriers, it is important to include all relevant stakeholder groups. Only then, effective and widely supported solutions can be implemented.