Cohen J, Hermans K, Dupont C, Van den Block L, Deliens L, Leemans K. Nationwide evaluation of palliative care (Q-PAC study) provided by specialized palliative care teams using quality indicators : Large variations in quality of care. Palliat Med. 2021 May 29:2692163211019881. doi: 10.1177/02692163211019881.
Background: Although a number of quality indicators for palliative care have been implemented worldwide, evidence regarding the performance of palliative care teams is scarce.
Aim: Evaluating the quality of palliative care using quality indicators; to describe the variation in quality between palliative care teams; and to suggest quality benchmarks for these teams.
Design: A repeated cross-sectional study design to collect quality indicator data by means of a validated quality indicator set in 36 Belgian palliative care teams at home and in hospitals. Risk-adjustment procedures, taking into account patient-mix, were applied to suggest benchmarks.
Participants: Between 2014 and 2017, five quality measurements with questionnaires were conducted in 982 patients receiving palliative care, 4701 care providers and 1039 family members of deceased patients.
Results: A total of 7622 assessments were received. Large risk-adjusted variations between the different palliative care teams were identified in: regularly updating patient files (IQR: 12%-39%), having multidisciplinary consultations about care objectives (IQR: 51%-73%), discussing end-of-life care decisions with patients (IQR: 26%-71%-92%), relieving shortness of breath (IQR: 57%-78%), regularly assessing pain (IQR: 43%-74%) and symptoms by means of validated scales (IQR: 23%-60%), initiating palliative care at least 2 weeks before death (IQR: 30%-50%), and weekly contact with the GP in the last 3 months of life (IQR 16%-43%).
Conclusion: The large risk-adjusted variation found across the quality indicator scores suggest that repeated and standardized quality improvement evaluations can allow teams to benchmark themselves to each other to identify areas of their palliative care delivery that need improvement.