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Study Shows Education for Consumers and Physicians Increases Favorability of Palliative Care

Findings from a new opinion research poll, released last month from the Centers to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) confirms that once educated with the correct definition of palliative care, understanding and favorability greatly increase among consumers and physicians.

 

Palliative Care Photo Credit: National Cancer Institsute

“All organizations and clinicians must proactively align themselves in defining palliative care correctly,” said Diane E. Meier, MD, CAPC director, in an August 8, 2019 statement announcing the survey findings. “With an aging population increasing exponentially, it is more important than ever that both the field of palliative care and the referring clinicians evolve their rhetoric. The point must always be made that palliative care is based on need, not prognosis,” says Meier.

According to the researchers, the study’s findings show that the initial impressions of palliative care are positive to neutral. Patients and caregivers report higher levels of familiarity than the general public, they say.

Definition of Palliative Care Key to Acceptance

Giving consumers a specific definition of palliative care a very positive impact as to how people feel about this specialized medical care provided to people living with a serious illness.

The researchers say that consumers expressed being favorable to palliative care being provided when it is based on this definition:

“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.”

“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.”

Through a national telephone (from June 8-13, 2019) survey among 800 adults age 25 with an oversample of adults ages 65+ (June 8-13, 2019), the researchers found that more than eight in ten consumers say they would be likely to consider palliative care for themselves or a loved one if they had a serious illness. There is also a strong belief among consumers that it is very important for palliative care services be made available at all hospitals for patients with a serious illness and their families.

According to the findings of an online survey of 317 physicians (from June 18-27, 2019) who treat patients with a serious illness (207 hospital-based physicians/110 non-hospital-based physicians), physicians who treat patients with serious illness are much more familiar with palliative care, and have much more favorable views of palliative care than the general public, patients, and caregivers. In fact, these respondent’s rate palliative care more favorably than hospice care and end of life care.

A Familiarity of Palliative Care

The researchers found that most physicians were very comfortable referring their patients to palliative care. Nearly all are very or somewhat comfortable talking to their patients and families about palliative care and determining when their patients need palliative care.

However, on average, the physician survey respondents say they are not always referring their patients with serious illness to palliative care, or talking with their patients or their families about palliative care. They note that the biggest barriers preventing them from referring their patients with serious illness to palliative care, is not being comfortable talking with patients about it, patients not wanting it, and viewing palliative care as only end of life care.

Those recognizing the positive impact of palliative care for their patients and their care rate the following as having the most positive impact: the ability to manage the pain and other symptoms for patients with a serious illness; the quality of life for patients with a serious illness; and the quality of care patients with a serious illness receive.

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