How do GPs identify a need for palliative care in their patients? An interview study
SourceBMC Family Practice, 14, (2013), article 42
Article / Letter to editor
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BMC Family Practice
SubjectNCEBP 7: Effective primary care and public health ONCOL 2: Age-related aspects of cancer
BACKGROUND: Little is known about how GPs determine whether and when patients need palliative care. Little research has been done regarding the assumption underpinning Lynn and Adamson's model that palliative care may start early in the course of the disease. This study was conducted to explore how GPs identify a need for palliative care in patients. METHODS: A qualitative interview study was performed among 20 GPs in the Netherlands. RESULTS: GPs reported that a combination of several signals, often subtle and not explicit, made them identify a need for palliative care: signals from patients (increasing care dependency and not recuperating after intercurrent diseases) and signals from relatives or reports from medical specialists. GPs reported differences in how they identified a need for palliative care in cancer patients versus those with other diseases. In cancer patients, the need for palliative care was often relatively clear because of a relatively strict demarcation between the curative and palliative phase. However, in patients with e.g. COPD or in the very old, GPs' awareness of palliative care needs often arises gradually, relatively late in the disease trajectory.GPs consider the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness as a key point in the disease trajectory. However, this does not automatically mean that a patient needs palliative care at that point. CONCLUSIONS: GPs recognize a need for palliative care on the basis of various signals. They do not support the idea underlying Lynn and Adamson's model that palliative care always starts early in the course of the disease.
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