An Irish study found that 4 in 10 adults prefer not to think or discuss palliative care.
All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC ) conducted the research on public perceptions of palliative care. Though the study occurred in Ireland, misconceptions and fear around palliative care remain a barrier to providers’ growth in the United States, as well as patients’ access to care.
“The importance of palliative care services for people with a range of life-limiting conditions is now increasingly recognised. It is not only for end of life but from the time of diagnosis of a life-limiting condition onwards,” Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said in a statement. “Palliative care is an approach which aims to improve the quality of life of patients and their families who are facing the problems associated with life-limiting illness.”
The survey polled 1,000 people in the Republic of Ireland throughout July 2023. The results show that people were less inclined to discuss palliative care than they were in previous surveys in 2015 and 2016.
However, other key findings show further progress in public perception of those services:
- 7 in 10 adults said they believe that palliative care may be suitable for several years
- Nearly 8 in 10 adults said they agree that palliative care supports family, friends and carers during and after an illness
- 7 in 10 adults said they think that palliative care should be considered as early as possible when diagnosed with a life-limiting illness
- 8 in 10 adults think palliative care is beneficial for anyone with a life-limiting illness
A major barrier to patients receiving services is the poor understanding that many among the general public and the medical community have about those modes of care.
Prior research has shown that as many as 71% of the U.S. population has little to no understanding of what palliative care is, including many clinicians in a position to refer patients and their families, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.
“Public awareness of palliative care is necessary to change norms and create demand, and as such, limited awareness may be a significant barrier to palliative care uptake,” the U.S. study indicated. “An assessment of current palliative care awareness in the United States is needed to inform the health care sector’s improving palliative care communication and delivery.”