Standardized interdisciplinary team meetings, volunteer involvement and early intervention are among the beneficial components of community-based palliative care, a new study has found.
Worldwide, providers that leverage these strategies, along with robust clinician and public education programs, achieve better outcomes, including more deaths occurring in the home, reduced hospitalizations and improved patient and family satisfaction, according to a study published in the journal Age and Ageing.
However, more research is needed to measure the impact of community-based palliative care on patients’ quality of life, researchers indicated. For the purposes of this study, the authors included hospice in its definition of “palliative care.”
Strong communication among interdisciplinary team members was among the most beneficial components of palliative care programs, according to M. Courtney Hughes, associate professor of public health at Northern Illinois University and co-author of the study.
“For providers in the U.S., it’s really key to conduct these — we call them standardized sessions or interdisciplinary meetings — where the various types of providers come together at the table or, or even if it’s virtual, and discuss what’s going on with the patient,” Hughes told Palliative Care News. “Sometimes the patient is involved, sometimes not. But just keeping the lines of communication open seems to be pretty important.”
Hughes and co-author Erin Vernon, associate professor in the Department of Economic at Seattle University, identified more than 1,600 research articles on palliative care, 57 of which met the study’s inclusion criteria. A third co-author, Allison Hainstock, also participated in the research.
The authors considered outcome measures including patient/caregiver satisfaction, hospital utilization and home deaths, finding that interdisciplinary meetings about patients, volunteer engagement and early intervention most contributed to the success of community-based palliative care programs.
The study was international in scope. Researchers compared data on interventions and outcomes from high-income, middle-income and low-income countries. However, the authors indicated that more research was needed on palliative care outcomes in low-income countries, as well as among lower-income populations or marginalized racial or ethnic groups.
Leveraging volunteerism also proved to be an effective component, according to Vernon.
“When you’re including the volunteers and the community health workers, that they actually can catch stuff sooner, and it prevents further hospitalizations down the line and improves the probability of home deaths,” Vernon said. “So those consistent touch-bases actually, in the long run, are seen as beneficial across the board, as long as there’s training and support.”