Effects of an Integrated Palliative Care Pathway: More Proactive GPs, Well Timed, and Less Acute Care: A Clustered, Partially Controlled Before-After Study

A.S. Groenewoud*, A.B. Wichmann, L. Dijkstra, E. Knapen, F. Warmerdam, C. De Weerdt-Spaetgens, W. Dominicus, R. Akkermans, J. Meijers

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objectives: This study presents the design of an integrated, proactive palliative care pathway covering the full care cycle and evaluates its effects using 3 types of outcomes: (1) physician-reported outcomes, (2) outcomes reported by family, and (3) (utilization of) health care outcomes.Design: A clustered, partially controlled before-after study with a multidisciplinary integrated palliative care pathway as its main intervention.Setting and participants: after assessment in hospital departments of oncology, and geriatrics, and in 13 primary care facilities, terminally ill patients were proactively included into the pathway. Patients' relatives and patients' general practitioners (GPs) participated in a before/after survey and in interviews and focus groups.Intervention: A multidisciplinary, integrated palliative care pathway encompassing (among others) early identification of the palliative phase, multidisciplinary consultation and coordination, and continuous monitoring of outcomes.Measures: Measures included GP questionnaire: perceived quality of palliative care; questionnaires by family members: FAMCARE, QOD-LTC, EDIZ; and 3 types of health care outcomes: (1) utilization of primary care: consultations, intensive care, communication, palliative home visits, consultations and home visits during weekends and out-of-office-hours, ambulance, admission to hospital; (2) utilization of hospital care: outpatient ward consultations, day care, emergency room visits, inpatient care, (radio) diagnostics, surgical procedures, other therapeutic activities, intensive care unit activities; (3) pharmaceutical care utilization.Results: GPs reported that palliative patients die more often at their preferred place of death, and that they now act more proactively toward palliative patients. Relatives of included, deceased patients reported clinically relevant improved quality of dying, and more timely palliative care. Patients in the pathway received more (intensive) primary care, less unexpected care during out-of-office hours, and more often received hospital care in the form of day care.Conclusions and implications: An integrated palliative care pathway improves a variety of clinical outcomes important to patients, their families, physicians, and the health care system. The integration of palliative care into multidisciplinary, proactive palliative care pathways, is therefore a desirable future development. (C) 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of AMDA - The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-304
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Palliative care
  • advance care planning
  • quality of health care
  • health care utilization
  • END

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