Nearly 80% of consumers who received background information on palliative care said they would choose it for themselves or their loved ones, according to a recent survey by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC). However, a lack of public awareness persists.
CAPC’s survey is designed to track awareness, perceptions, attitudes and interest in palliative care and to measure changes since a previous survey in 2011. The survey polled more than 800 adults older and 25, with 347 of those being 65 or older. More than 250 patients with serious illness and 263 family caregivers participated in the survey, a well as 317 physicians who treat patients with serious illness.
After hearing a definition for palliative care, more than eight in ten of respondents said they would be likely to consider palliative care for themselves or a loved one.
“Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family,” according to the definition CAPC provided to survey respondents. “Palliative care is provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient’s prognosis. This care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.”
CAPC found that this messaging improved public and physician’s impressions and understanding of palliative care. Among individuals older than 65 who heard the definitions, 87% indicated that they would choose palliative care for themselves or loved one. The percentage was 86% among patients who currently suffer from a serious illness, and 89% among their caregivers.
CAPC concluded that public education efforts could help promote palliative care utilization and referrals.
How we talk about palliative care influences perceptions about palliative care, and attitudes become significantly more favorable as people are educated,” said CAPC Executive Director Diane Meier, M.D. in a recent webinar. “The more educated consumers become ,the more likely they are to say they would consider palliative care for themselves or a loved one.”
Public awareness is a major barrier to expanding the use of palliative care, which many people, including some clinicians, conflate with hospice.
Lack of awareness is a major barrier to palliative care expansion. A Journal of Palliative Medicine study, published in April, found that as many as 71% of people in the United States have little to no understanding of what palliative care is, including many clinicians in a position to refer patients to palliative care or hospice.
Close to 60% of patients who would benefit from palliative care do not receive those services, despite the availability of community-based palliative care as well as hospital-based palliative care, according to a recent report from the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst Insights Council.
Home-based palliative care could reduce societal health care costs by $103 billion within the next 20 years, the nonprofit economic research group Florida TaxWatch said in a report. Palliative care in general can reduce health care costs by more than $4,000 per patient, according to a July 2017 study in Health Affairs. It can also reduce the frequency of 911 calls, emergency department visits, and unnecessary hospitalizations.