Background: Few studies have specifically assessed the scope, nature and challenges of palliative and end-of-life care in rural general practice. These knowledge gaps limit the development of evidence-based policies and services for patients in the last months of life. This study aimed to explore the perspectives of general practitioners (GPs) and other stakeholders on rural GPs' involvement and challenges in providing palliative and end-of-life care in regional Australia.
Methods: A qualitative study involving five focus groups with 26 GPs based in rural/regional Western Australia together with 15 individual telephone interviews with four GPs and 11 other stakeholders involved in end-of-life care across Australia.
Results: The rural GPs' central role in end-of-life care was recognized by the majority of participants but multiple challenges were also identified. Some challenges were comparable to those found in urban settings but others were more pronounced, including resource limitations and lack of training. Inappropriate payment models discouraged GPs' involvement in some aspects of end-of-life care, such as case conferences and home visits. Compared to GPs in urban settings, those in rural/regional communities often reported closer doctor-patient relationships and better care integration and collaboration. These positive aspects of care could be further developed to enhance service provision. Our study highlighted the importance of regular interactions with other professionals and patients in providing end-of-life care, but many GPs and other stakeholders found such interactions more challenging than the more "technical" aspects of care.
Conclusions: Rural/regional GPs appear to be disproportionately affected by inappropriate payment models and limited resources, but may benefit from closer doctor-patient relationships and better care integration and collaboration relative to urban GPs. Systematic collection of empirical data on GP management at end-of-life is required to build on these strengths and address the challenges.
BACKGROUND: The majority of end-of-life (EOL) care occurs in general practice. However, we still have little knowledge about how this care is delivered or how it can be assessed and supported.
AIM: (i) To review the existing evaluation tools used for assessment of the delivery of EOL care from the perspective of general practice; (ii) To describe how EOL care is provided in general practice; (iii) To identify major areas of concern in providing EOL care in this context.
DESIGN: A systematic review.
DATA SOURCES: Systematic searches of major electronic databases (Medline, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL) from inception to 2017 were used to identify evaluation tools focusing on organizational structures/systems and process of end-of-life care from a general practice perspective.
RESULTS: A total of 43 studies representing nine evaluation tools were included. A relatively restricted focus and lack of validation were common limitations. Key general practitioner (GP) activities assessed by the evaluation tools were summarized and the main issues in current GP EOL care practice were identified.
CONCLUSIONS: The review of evaluation tools revealed that GPs are highly involved in management of patients at the EOL, but there are a range of issues relating to the delivery of care. An EOL care registration system integrated with electronic health records could provide an optimal approach to address the concerns about recall bias and time demands in retrospective analyses. Such a system should ideally capture the core GP activities and any major issues in care provision on a case-by-case basis.