Palliative Care: The Need For Evidence-Based Guidance

posted by MCG

on November 16, 2018


The role of healthcare is to improve health. What is the role of medicine at the end of life? While we have much evidence-based guidance available about how to manage and treat illness, there is little available guidance on end-of-life care. Death, however, is the one condition that all individuals will experience.

The World Health Organization estimates that 40 million people worldwide need palliative care services each year, but only about 6 million people receive these services. In the United States, fewer than half of eligible Medicare patients were enrolled in palliative care or hospice services in 2016 at the time of their death.

This gap in care has ethical implications: How can the medical community ensure that patients are adequately treated throughout their entire lives? Healthcare providers have an obligation to provide thoughtful, compassionate care to patients during serious illnesses, and that care should include medical, social, emotional, and practical support for patients and their caregivers at the end of their lives. Improving the quality of this care can improve patient and caregiver satisfaction and may positively impact the significant expenditures that occur in the last 12 months of life. There is a lack of evidence-based guidance to address the needs of patients who need palliative care. Clinicians and patients need to better understand the role of palliative medicine, how it can help patients and caregivers, and how it differs from hospice. The development of evidence-based guidelines will provide a framework for clinicians and patients to have constructive conversations that address palliative care. Trustworthy guidelines can provide a common basis for care-planning decisions that will improve patient outcomes.