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Integrated palliative care is about professional networking rather than standardisation of care: A qualitative study with healthcare professionals in 19 integrated palliative care initiatives in five European countries

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
  • Marlieke den Herder-van der Eerden
  • Jeroen van Wijngaarden
  • Sheila Payne
  • Nancy Preston
  • Lisa Linge-Dahl
  • Lukas Radbruch
  • Karen Van Beek
  • Johan Menten
  • Csilla Busa
  • Agnes Csikos
  • Kris Vissers
  • Jelle van Gurp
  • Jeroen Hasselaar
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>13/02/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Palliative Medicine
Number of pages12
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date13/02/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English


BACKGROUND: Integrated palliative care aims at improving coordination of palliative care services around patients' anticipated needs. However, international comparisons of how integrated palliative care is implemented across four key domains of integrated care (content of care, patient flow, information logistics and availability of (human) resources and material) are lacking.

AIM: To examine how integrated palliative care takes shape in practice across abovementioned key domains within several integrated palliative care initiatives in Europe.

DESIGN: Qualitative group interview design.

SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: A total of 19 group interviews were conducted (2 in Belgium, 4 in the Netherlands, 4 in the United Kingdom, 4 in Germany and 5 in Hungary) with 142 healthcare professionals from several integrated palliative care initiatives in five European countries. The majority were nurses ( n = 66; 46%) and physicians ( n = 50; 35%).

RESULTS: The dominant strategy for fostering integrated palliative care is building core teams of palliative care specialists and extended professional networks based on personal relationships, shared norms, values and mutual trust, rather than developing standardised information exchange and referral pathways. Providing integrated palliative care with healthcare professionals in the wider professional community appears difficult, as a shared proactive multidisciplinary palliative care approach is lacking, and healthcare professionals often do not know palliative care professionals or services.

CONCLUSION: Achieving better palliative care integration into regular healthcare and convincing the wider professional community is a difficult task that will take time and effort. Enhancing standardisation of palliative care into education, referral pathways and guidelines and standardised information exchange may be necessary. External authority (policy makers, insurance companies and professional bodies) may be needed to support integrated palliative care practices across settings.