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1.  Palliative care for older people – exploring the views of doctors and nurses from different fields in Germany 
Background
Providing appropriate palliative care for older people is a major task for health care systems worldwide, and up to now it has also been one of the most neglected. Focusing on the German health care system, we sought to explore the attitudes of health professionals regarding their understanding of palliative care for older patients and its implementation.
Methods
In a qualitative study design, focus groups were established consisting of general practitioners, geriatricians, palliative care physicians, palliative care nurses and general nurses (a total of 29 participants). The group discussions were recorded, transcribed, coded and analysed using the methodological approach of Qualitative Description.
Results
Deficiencies in teamwork and conflicting role definitions between doctors and nurses and between family practitioners and medical specialists were found to be central problems affecting the provision of appropriate palliative care for older people. It was emphasized that there are great advantages to family doctors playing a leading role, as they usually have the longest contacts to the patients. However, the professional qualifications of family doctors were to some extent criticized. The general practitioners for their part criticized the increasing specialization on the field of palliative care. All groups complained that the German compensation system gives insufficient consideration to the time-consuming care of older patients, and about excessive bureaucracy.
Conclusion
General practitioners are the central health professionals in the delivery of palliative care for older people. They should however be encouraged to involve specialized services such as palliative care teams where necessary. With the German health care reform of 2007, a legal framework has been created that allows for this. As far as its realization is concerned, it must be ensured that the spotlight remains on the needs of the patients and not on policy conflicts and rivalries between health care professionals. Older people might particularly benefit if "talking" medicine and time-consuming care were properly catered for, financially and organizationally, in the health care system.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-8-7
PMCID: PMC2706814  PMID: 19549336
2.  A self-evaluation tool for integrated care services: the Development Model for Integrated Care applied in practice 
Purpose
The purpose of the workshop is to show the applications of the Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC) in practice. This relatively new and validated model, can be used by integrated care practices to evaluate their integrated care, to assess their phase of development and reveal improvement areas. In the workshop the results of the use of the model in three types of integrated care settings in the Netherlands will be presented. Participants are offered practical instruments based on the validated DMIC to use in their own setting and will be introduced to the webbased tool.
Context
To integrate care from multiple providers into a coherent and streamlined client-focused service, a large number of activities and agreements have to be implemented like streamlining information flows and adequate transfers of clients. In the large range of possible activities it is often not clear what essential activities are and where to start or continue. Also, knowledge about how to further develop integrated care services is needed. The Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC), based on PhD research of Mirella Minkman, describes nine clusters containing in total 89 elements that contribute to the integration of care. The clusters are named: ‘client-centeredness’, ‘delivery system’, ‘performance management’, ‘quality of care’, ‘result-focused learning’, ‘interprofessional teamwork’, ‘roles and tasks’, ‘commitment’, and ‘transparant entrepreneurship’ [1–3]. In 2011 a new digital webbased self-evolution tool which contains the 89 elements grouped in nine clusters was developed. The DMIC also describes four phases of development [4]. The model is empirically validated in practice by assessing the relevance and implementation of the elements and development phases in 84 integrated care services in The Netherlands: in stroke, acute myocardial infarct (AMI), and dementia services. The validation studies are recently published [5, 6]. In 2011 also other integrated care services started using the model [7]. Vilans developed a digital web-based self-evaluation tool for integrated care services based on the DMIC. A palliative care network, four diabetes services, a youth care service and a network for autism used the self-evaluation tool to evaluate the development of their integrated care service. Because of its generic character, the model and tool are believed to be also interesting internationally.
Data sources
In the workshop we will present the results of three studies in integrated diabetes, youth and palliative care. The three projects consist of multiple steps, see below. Workshop participants could also work with the DMIC following these steps.
One: Preparation of the digital self-evolution tool for integrated care services
Although they are very different, the three integrated care services all wanted to gain insight in their development and improvement opportunities. We tailored the digital self-evaluation tool for each specific integrated care services, but for all the basis was the DMIC. Personal accounts for the digital DMIC self-evalution survey were sent to multiple partners working in each integrated care service (4–16 partners).
Two: Use of the online self-evaluation tool each partner of the local integrated care setting evaluated the integrated care by filling in the web-based questionnaire. The tool consists of three parts (A-C) named: general information about the integrated care practice (A); the clusters and elements of the DMIC (B); and the four phases of development (C). The respondents rated the relevance and presence of each element in their integrated care practice. Respondents were asked to estimate in which phase of development their thought their service was.
Three: Analysing the results
Advisers from Vilans, the Centre of excellence for long-term care in the Netherlands, analysed the self-evolution results in cooperation with the integrated care coordinators. The results show the total amount of implemented integrated care elements per cluster in spider graphs and the development phase as calculated by the DMIC model. Suggestions for further development of the integrated care services were analysed and reported.
Four: Discussing the implications for further development
In a workshop with the local integrated care partners the results of the self-evaluation were presented and discussed. We noticed remarkable results and highlight elements for further development. In addition, we gave advice for further development appropriate to the development phase of the integrated care service. Furthermore, the professionals prioritized the elements and decided which elements to start working on. This resulted in a (quality improvement) plan for the further development of the integrated care service.
Five: Reporting results
In a report all the results of the survey (including consensus scores) and the workshops came together. The integrated care coordinators stated that the reports really helped them to assess their improvement strategy. Also, there was insight in the development phase of their service which gave tools for further development.
Case description
The three cases presented are a palliative network, an integrated diabetes services and an integrated care network for youth in the Netherlands. The palliative care network wanted to reflect on their current development, to build a guiding framework for further development of the network. About sixteen professionals within the network worked with the digital self-evaluation tool and the DMIC: home care organisations, welfare organizations, hospice centres, health care organisations, community organizations.
For diabetes care, a Dutch health care insurance company wished to gain insight in the development of the contracted integrated care services to stimulate further development of the services. Professionals of three diabetes integrated care services were invited to fill in the digital self-evaluation tool. Of each integrated care service professionals like a general practitioner, a diabetes nurse, a medical specialist, a dietician and a podiatrist were invited. In youth care, a local health organisation wondered whether the DMIC could be helpful to visualize the results of youth integrated care services at process- and organisational level. The goal of the project was to define indicators at a process- and organisational level for youth care services based on the DMIC. In the future, these indicators might be used to evaluate youth care integrated care services and improve the quality of youth care within the Netherlands.
Conclusions and discussion
It is important for the quality of integrated care services that the involved coordinators, managers and professionals are aware of the development process of the integrated care service and that they focus on elements which can further develop and improve their integrated care. However, we noticed that integrated care services in the Netherlands experience difficulties in developing their integrated care service. It is often not clear what essential activities are to work on and how to further develop the integrated care service. A guiding framework for the development of integrated care was missing. The DMIC model has been developed for that reason and offers a useful tool for assessment, self-evaluation or improvement of integrated care services in practice. The model has been validated for AMI, dementia and stroke services. The latest new studies in diabetes, palliative care and youth care gave further insight in the generic character of the DMIC. Based on these studies it can be assumed that the DMIC can be used for multiple types of integrated care services. The model is assumed to be interesting for an international audience. Improving integrated care is a complex topic in a large number of countries; the DMIC is also based on the international literature. Dutch integrated care coordinators stated that the DMIC helped them to assess their integrated care development in practice and supported them in obtaining ideas for expanding and improving their integrated care activities.
The web-based self-evaluation tool focuses on a process- and organisational level of integrated care. Also, the self assessed development phase can be compared to the development phase as calculated by the DMIC tool. The cases showed this is fruitful input for discussions. When using the tool, the results can also be used in quality policy reports and improvement plans. The web-based tool is being tested at this moment in practice, but in San Marino we can present the latest webversion and demonstrate with a short video how to use the tool and model. During practical exercises in the workshop the participants will experience how the application of the DMIC can work for them in practice or in research. For integrated care researchers and policy makers, the DMIC questionnaire and tool is a promising method for further research and policy plans in integrated care.
PMCID: PMC3617779
development model for integrated care; development of integrated care services; implementation and improvement of integrated care; self evaluation
3.  Palliative care in urgent need of recognition and development in general practice: the example of Germany 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:66.
Background
Specialist palliative care is being increasingly recognised and developed to improve end-of-life care in many developed countries. However, only a small proportion of the total number of patients with incurable, progressive diseases actually has direct contact with specialist palliative care practitioners. Using the German situation as an example, the main purpose of this paper is to argue that the emphasis on specialist palliative care services without a similar encouragement of primary palliative care will deliver a constrained service.
Discussion
For the vast majority of people with incurable, progressive diseases, good palliative care delivered by General Practitioners and community nurses, with access to specialist support when needed, is the optimal response. In Germany, specialist palliative care in the community was established in the 2007 health care reforms. However actual and potential delivery of palliative care by general practitioners and community based nurses has been sorely neglected. The time-consuming care of palliative patients and their families is currently far from accurately reflected in German, indeed most European primary care payment systems. However, it is not just a question of adequate financial compensation but also of the recognition of the fundamental value of this intense form of holistic family medicine.
Summary
It is imperative palliative care carried out by community nurses and general practitioners is better recognised by health professionals, health insurers, government and the scientific community as a central part of the delivery of health care for people in the last phase of life. Health systems should be arranged so that this critical role of general practice and primary care is intentionally fostered. Palliative care carried out by generalists needs an identity at an academic and practical level, developing in concert with specialist palliative care.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-66
PMCID: PMC2945968  PMID: 20843334
4.  “Not the ‘Grim Reaper Service’”: An Assessment of Provider Knowledge, Attitudes, and Perceptions Regarding Palliative Care Referral Barriers in Heart Failure 
Background
Although similar to cancer patients regarding symptom burden and prognosis, patients with heart failure (HF) tend to receive palliative care far less frequently. We sought to explore factors perceived by cardiology, primary care, and palliative care providers to impede palliative care referral for HF patients.
Methods and Results
We conducted semistructured interviews regarding (1) perceived needs of patients with advanced HF; (2) knowledge, attitudes, and experiences with specialist palliative care; (3) perceived indications for and optimal timing of palliative care referral in HF; and (4) perceived barriers to palliative care referral. Two investigators analyzed data using template analysis, a qualitative technique. We interviewed 18 physician, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant providers from 3 specialties: cardiology, primary care, and palliative care. Providers had limited knowledge regarding what palliative care is, and how it can complement traditional HF therapy to decrease HF‐related suffering. Interviews identified several potential barriers: the unpredictable course of HF; lack of clear referral triggers across the HF trajectory; and ambiguity regarding what differentiates standard HF therapy from palliative care. Nevertheless, providers expressed interest for integrating palliative care into traditional HF care, but were unsure of how to initiate collaboration.
Conclusions
Palliative care referral for HF patients may be suboptimal due to limited provider knowledge and misperceptions of palliative care as a service reserved for those near death. These factors represent potentially modifiable targets for provider education, which may help to improve palliative care referral for HF patients with unresolved disease‐related burden.
doi:10.1161/JAHA.113.000544
PMCID: PMC3959712  PMID: 24385453
health care; health disparities; health services research; healthcare access; heart failure
5.  Paediatric palliative home care by general paediatricians: a multimethod study on perceived barriers and incentives 
BMC Palliative Care  2010;9:11.
Background
Non-specialist palliative care, as it is delivered by general practitioners, is a basic component of a comprehensive palliative care infrastructure for adult patients with progressive and far advanced disease. Currently palliative care for children and adolescents is recognized as a distinct entity of care, requiring networks of service providers across different settings, including paediatricians working in general practice. In Germany, the medical home care for children and adolescents is to a large extent delivered by general paediatricians working in their own practice. However, these are rarely confronted with children suffering from life-limiting diseases. The aim of this study was therefore to examine potential barriers, incentives, and the professional self-image of general paediatricians with regard to paediatric palliative care.
Methods
Based on qualitative expert interviews, a questionnaire was designed and a survey among general paediatricians in their own practice (n = 293) was undertaken. The survey has been developed and performed in close cooperation with the regional professional association of paediatricians.
Results
The results showed a high disposition on part of the paediatricians to engage in palliative care, and the majority of respondents regarded palliative care as part of their profile. Main barriers for the implementation were time restrictions (40.7%) and financial burden (31.6%), sole responsibility without team support (31.1%), as well as formal requirements such as forms and prescriptions (26.6%). Major facilitations were support by local specialist services such as home care nursing service (83.0%), access to a specialist paediatric palliative care consultation team (82.4%), as well as an option of exchange with colleagues (60.1%).
Conclusions
Altogether, the high commitment to this survey reflects the relevance of the issue for paediatricians working in general practice. Education in basic palliative care competence and communication skills was seen as an important prerequisite for the engagement in paediatric palliative home care. A local network of specialist support on site and a 24/7 on-call service are necessary in order to facilitate the implementation of basic palliative care by paediatricians in their own practice.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-9-11
PMCID: PMC2902453  PMID: 20525318
6.  Appropriate place of death for cancer patients: views of general practitioners and hospital doctors. 
BACKGROUND. The majority of cancer patients in the United Kingdom die in a National Health Service hospital, a setting that is contrary to the wishes of those patients expressing a preference to die elsewhere, for example at home or in a hospice. AIM. A study was undertaken to determine clinicians' views of the appropriate place of death for cancer patients and to examine factors leading to patients being admitted to a hospital specialist services unit where they died. METHOD. A questionnaire was sent to all general practitioners and hospital doctors who had cared for cancer patients who had died between May 1991 and April 1992 in a single health district. The appropriateness of the place of death, whether the patient was terminally ill, reasons for hospital admission and effect on management had different resources been available were determined. RESULTS. A total of 1022 deaths attributable to cancer were recorded for patients registered with general practitioners in the study area. Questionnaires were returned by general practitioners for 951 of the deaths (93%); hospital doctors returned questionnaires for 216 out of 268 patients (81%) who had been admitted to hospital under the care of a consultant. For deaths which had occurred at home, in a community hospital, residential/nursing home or Marie Curie hospice, the place of death was considered appropriate by general practitioners in over 92% of cases. For deaths in the hospital specialist services unit the place of death was considered probably or definitely appropriate by general practitioners in 83% of the 212 cases, but not appropriate in 17% of cases (P < 0.001 compared with all other settings). Hospital doctors considered 27% of deaths in the unit inappropriate. Significantly fewer cases fulfilled the criteria for terminal illness (death expected and palliative treatment commenced) according to general practitioners among those dying in the specialist services unit compared with deaths elsewhere (P < 0.001). The most common main reasons for admission to the specialist services unit were for investigation, because of difficult symptom control (apart from pain) and for curative/active treatment. General practitioners reported that management of between a sixth and a quarter of patients admitted to the specialist services unit would have been affected by the availability of 24-hour home cover, community hospital beds and a city-based hospice. Among the group of patients fulfilling the study criteria for terminal illness, the effect of other services on patient management would have been considerably higher. CONCLUSION. A greater proportion of cases where patients died from cancer in settings other than a specialist services unit were considered appropriate by general practitioners compared with deaths in a specialist services unit. For a considerable minority of patients, death in a specialist services unit was not considered appropriate by the general practitioners or by the hospital doctors. Improvements in local hospice facilities, community hospitals and community support would mean that a substantial proportion of hospital admissions could be avoided and thus cancer patients could die in more appropriate settings.
PMCID: PMC1239299  PMID: 7612340
7.  General practitioners' use and experiences of palliative care services: a survey in south east England 
BMC Palliative Care  2008;7:18.
Background
The role of the General Practitioner (GP) is central to community palliative care. Good liaison between the different professionals involved in a patient's care is extremely important in palliative care patients. In cases where GPs have previously been dissatisfied with palliative services, this may be seen as a barrier to referral when caring for other patients. The aim of this survey is to investigate the use and previous experiences of GPs of two palliative care services, with particular emphasis on barriers to referral and to explore issues surrounding the GP's role in caring for palliative patients.
Methods
Design: Descriptive postal survey of use and experience of palliative care services with particular emphasis on barriers to referral. Setting: One Primary Care Trust (PCT), south London, England, population 298,500. Subjects: 180 GPs in the PCT, which is served by two hospice services (A&B).
Results
An overall questionnaire response rate of 77% (138) was obtained, with 69% (124) used in analysis. Over 90% of GPs were satisfied with the palliative care services over the preceding two years. Two areas of possible improvement emerged; communication and prescribing practices. GPs identified some patients that they had not referred, most commonly when patients or carers were reluctant to accept help, or when other support was deemed sufficient. Over half of the GPs felt there were areas where improvement could be made; with clarification of the rules and responsibilities of the multi disciplinary team being the most common. The majority of GPs were working, and want to work with, the specialist services as part of an extended team. However, a greater number of GPs want to hand over care to the specialist services than are currently doing so.
Conclusion
A large number of GPs were happy with the service provision of the palliative care services in this area. They suggested that 3 out of 4 terminally ill patients needed specialist input. Views of services were largely positive, and reasons for non referral were unrelated to previous experience of the specialist services.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-7-18
PMCID: PMC2588553  PMID: 18986542
8.  A region-based palliative care intervention trial using the mixed-method approach: Japan OPTIM study 
BMC Palliative Care  2012;11:2.
Background
Disseminating palliative care is a critical task throughout the world. Several outcome studies explored the effects of regional palliative care programs on a variety of end-points, and some qualitative studies investigated the process of developing community palliative care networks. These studies provide important insights into the potential benefits of regional palliative care programs, but the clinical implications are still limited, because: 1) many interventions included fundamental changes in the structure of the health care system, and, thus, the results would not be applicable for many regions where structural changes are difficult or unfeasible; 2) patient-oriented outcomes were not measured or explored only in a small number of populations, and interpretation of the results from a patient's view is difficult; and 3) no studies adopted a mixed-method approach using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to interpret the complex phenomenon from multidimensional perspectives.
Methods/designs
This is a mixed-method regional intervention trial, consisting of a pre-post outcome study and qualitative process studies. The primary aim of the pre-post outcome study is to evaluate the change in the number of home deaths, use of specialized palliative care services, patient-reported quality of palliative care, and family-reported quality of palliative care after regional palliative care intervention. The secondary aim is to explore the changes in a variety of outcomes, including patients' quality of life, pain intensity, family care burden, and physicians' and nurses' knowledge, difficulties, and self-perceived practice. Outcome measurements used in this study include the Care Evaluation Scale, Good Death Inventory, Brief pain Inventory, Caregiving Consequence Inventory, Sense of Security Scale, Palliative Care Knowledge test, Palliative Care Difficulties Scale, and Palliative Care Self-reported Practice Scale. Study populations are a nearly representative sample of advanced cancer patients, bereaved family members, physicians, and nurses in the region.
Qualitative process studies consist of 3 studies with each aim: 1) to describe the process in developing regional palliative care in each local context, 2) to understand how and why the regional palliative care program led to changes in the region and to propose a model for shaping regional palliative care, and 3) to systemically collect the barriers of palliative care at a regional level and potential resolutions. The study methodology is a case descriptive study, a grounded theory approach based on interviews, and a content analysis based on systemically collected data, respectively.
Discussion
This study is, to our knowledge, one of the most comprehensive evaluations of a region-based palliative care intervention program. This study has 3 unique aspects: 1) it measures a wide range of outcomes, including quality of care and quality of life measures specifically designed for palliative care populations, whether patients died where they actually preferred, the changes in physicians and nurses at a regional level; 2) adopts qualitative studies along with quantitative evaluations; and 3) the intervention is without a fundamental change in health care systems. A comprehensive understanding of the findings in this study will contribute to a deeper insight into how to develop community palliative care.
Trial Registration
UMIN Clinical Trials Registry (UMIN-CTR), Japan, UMIN000001274.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-11-2
PMCID: PMC3349547  PMID: 22233691
9.  Heart Failure and Palliative Care: Implications in Practice 
Journal of Palliative Medicine  2009;12(6):531-536.
Abstract
The number of people with heart failure is continually rising. Despite continued medical advances that may prolong life, there is no cure. While typical heart failure trajectories include the risk of sudden death, heart failure is typically characterized by periods of stability interrupted by acute exacerbations. The unpredictable nature of this disease and the inability to predict its terminal phase has resulted in few services beyond medical management being offered. Yet, this population has documented unmet needs that extend beyond routine medical care. Palliative care has been proposed as a strategy to meet these needs, however, these services are rarely offered. Although palliative care should be implemented early in the disease process, in practice it is tied to end-of-life care. The purpose of this study was to uncover whether the conceptualization of palliative care for heart failure as end-of-life care may inhibit the provision of these services. The meaning of palliative care in heart failure was explored from three perspectives: scientific literature, health care providers, and spousal caregivers of patients with heart failure. There is confusion in the literature and by the health care community about the meaning of the term palliative care and what the provision of these services entails. Palliative care was equated to end-of-life care, and as a result, health care providers may be reluctant to discuss palliative care with heart failure patients early in the disease trajectory. Most family caregivers have not heard of the term and all would be receptive to an offer of palliative care at some point during the disease trajectory.
doi:10.1089/jpm.2009.0010
PMCID: PMC2803059  PMID: 19508139
10.  The uses of provincial administrative health databases for research on palliative care: Insights from British Columbia, Canada 
Background
Research indicating that people increasingly prefer to die at home suggests that palliative care is likely to play a more prominent role in the future of Canada's health care system. Unfortunately, at a time when research evidence should be informing policy and service delivery, little is known about health service utilization by Canadians at the end of life. One existing mechanism that can help address this gap is provincial administrative health data. The purpose of this study was to explore the potential of administrative health data to identify characteristics of palliative care users, patterns of formal service utilization and predictors of palliative care use.
Methods
Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to examine data from the Capital Health Region, British Columbia Linked Health Databases for the period 1992/93 to 1998/99. The databases examined include continuing care, physician claims, hospital separations, and vital statistics. As the name implies, these databases can be linked at the individual level using unique identifiers so that health services utilization can be tracked across sectors.
Results
General patterns of service use among palliative care patients suggest that general practitioner and medical specialist visits have decreased over time and the utilization of hospital beds has increased. Utilization of community-based services (i.e. home support and home nursing care) shows an overall pattern of decline. However, when compared to non-palliative care patients, palliative care patients spent fewer nights in hospital, used fewer hours of home support, and had a greater number of home nursing care visits.
Conclusions
Administrative health databases can provide valuable information for examining service utilization patterns over time. However, given that decisions surrounding the designation of palliative care include factors beyond the scope of administrative databases (such as quality of life, personal preferences, social support), these databases should only be seen as one source of information to inform service delivery and policy decision making.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-4-2
PMCID: PMC552316  PMID: 15717923
11.  Case conferences between general practitioners and specialist teams to plan end of life care of people with end stage heart failure and lung disease: an exploratory pilot study 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:24.
Background
Most people die of non-malignant disease, but most patients of specialist palliative care services have cancer. Adequate end of life care for people with non-malignant disease requires acknowledgement of their limited prognosis and appropriate care planning. Case conferences between specialist palliative care services and GPs improve outcomes in cancer-based populations. We report a pilot study of case conferences between the patient’s GP and specialist staff to facilitate care planning for people with end stage heart failure or non-malignant lung disease in a regional health service in Queensland Australia.
Methods
Single face to face case conferences about patients with a primary diagnosis of advanced heart failure or respiratory failure from non-malignant disease were conducted between a palliative care consultant, a case management nurse and the patient’s GP. Annualised rates of service utilisation (emergency department [ED] presentations, ED discharges back to home, hospital admissions, and admission length of stay) before and after case conference were calculated. Content and counts of case conference recommendations, and the rate of adherence to recommendations were also assessed. A process evaluation of case conferences was undertaken.
Results
Twenty-three case conferences involving 21 GPs were conducted between November 2011 and November 2012. One GP refused to participate. Ten patients died, three at home. Of 82 management recommendations made, 55 (67%) were enacted. ED admissions fell from 13.9 per annum (pa) to 2.1 (difference 11.8, 95% CI 2.2-21.3, p = 0.001); ED admissions leading to discharge home from 3.9 to 0.4 pa (difference 3.5, 95% CI -0.4-7.5, p = 0.05); hospital admissions from 11.4 to 3.5 pa (difference 7.9, 95% CI 2.2-13.7, p = 0.002); and length of stay from 7.0 to 3.7 days (difference 3.4, 95% CI 0.9-5.8, p = 0.007). Participating health professionals were enthusiastic about the process.
Conclusions
This pilot is the initial step in the development and testing of a complex intervention based on a model of integrated care. A single case conference involving the patient’s heart or lung failure team is associated with significant reductions in service utilization, apparently by improving case coordination, enhancing symptom management and assessing and managing carer needs. A randomized controlled trial is being developed.
Trial registration
Australian and New Zealand Controlled Trials Register ACTRN12613001377729: Registered 16/12/2013.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-13-24
PMCID: PMC4020309  PMID: 24829539
12.  Community-Based Care for the Specialized Management of Heart Failure 
Executive Summary
In August 2008, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) presented a vignette to the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC) on a proposed targeted health care delivery model for chronic care. The proposed model was defined as multidisciplinary, ambulatory, community-based care that bridged the gap between primary and tertiary care, and was intended for individuals with a chronic disease who were at risk of a hospital admission or emergency department visit. The goals of this care model were thought to include: the prevention of emergency department visits, a reduction in hospital admissions and re-admissions, facilitation of earlier hospital discharge, a reduction or delay in long-term care admissions, and an improvement in mortality and other disease-specific patient outcomes.
OHTAC approved the development of an evidence-based assessment to determine the effectiveness of specialized community based care for the management of heart failure, Type 2 diabetes and chronic wounds.
Please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site at: www.health.gov.on.ca/ohtas to review the following reports associated with the Specialized Multidisciplinary Community-Based care series.
Specialized multidisciplinary community-based care series: a summary of evidence-based analyses
Community-based care for the specialized management of heart failure: an evidence-based analysis
Community-based care for chronic wound management: an evidence-based analysis
Please note that the evidence-based analysis of specialized community-based care for the management of diabetes titled: “Community-based care for the management of type 2 diabetes: an evidence-based analysis” has been published as part of the Diabetes Strategy Evidence Platform at this URL: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/tech/ohtas/tech_diabetes_20091020.html
Please visit the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative Web site at: http://theta.utoronto.ca/papers/MAS_CHF_Clinics_Report.pdf to review the following economic project associated with this series:
Community-based Care for the specialized management of heart failure: a cost-effectiveness and budget impact analysis.
Objective
The objective of this evidence-based analysis was to determine the effectiveness of specialized multidisciplinary care in the management of heart failure (HF).
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
HF is a progressive, chronic condition in which the heart becomes unable to sufficiently pump blood throughout the body. There are several risk factors for developing the condition including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, previous myocardial infarction, and valvular heart disease.(1) Based on data from a 2005 study of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), the prevalence of congestive heart failure in Canada is approximately 1% of the population over the age of 12.(2) This figure rises sharply after the age of 45, with prevalence reports ranging from 2.2% to 12%.(3) Extrapolating this to the Ontario population, an estimated 98,000 residents in Ontario are believed to have HF.
Disease management programs are multidisciplinary approaches to care for chronic disease that coordinate comprehensive care strategies along the disease continuum and across healthcare delivery systems.(4) Evidence for the effectiveness of disease management programs for HF has been provided by seven systematic reviews completed between 2004 and 2007 (Table 1) with consistency of effect demonstrated across four main outcomes measures: all cause mortality and hospitalization, and heart-failure specific mortality and hospitalization. (4-10)
However, while disease management programs are multidisciplinary by definition, the published evidence lacks consistency and clarity as to the exact nature of each program and usual care comparators are generally ill defined. Consequently, the effectiveness of multidisciplinary care for the management of persons with HF is still uncertain. Therefore, MAS has completed a systematic review of specialized, multidisciplinary, community-based care disease management programs compared to a well-defined usual care group for persons with HF.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
Research Questions
What is the effectiveness of specialized, multidisciplinary, community-based care (SMCCC) compared with usual care for persons with HF?
Literature Search Strategy
A comprehensive literature search was completed of electronic databases including MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, Cochrane Library and Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature. Bibliographic references of selected studies were also searched. After a review of the title and abstracts, relevant studies were obtained and the full reports evaluated. All studies meeting explicit inclusion and exclusion criteria were retained. Where appropriate, a meta-analysis was undertaken to determine the pooled estimate of effect of specialized multidisciplinary community-based care for explicit outcomes. The quality of the body of evidence, defined as one or more relevant studies was determined using GRADE Working Group criteria. (11)
Inclusion Criteria
Randomized controlled trial
Systematic review with meta analysis
Population includes persons with New York Heart Association (NYHA) classification 1-IV HF
The intervention includes a team consisting of a nurse and physician one of which is a specialist in HF management.
The control group receives care by a single practitioner (e.g. primary care physician (PCP) or cardiologist)
The intervention begins after discharge from the hospital
The study reports 1-year outcomes
Exclusion Criteria
The intervention is delivered predominately through home-visits
Studies with mixed populations where discrete data for HF is not reported
Outcomes of Interest
All cause mortality
All cause hospitalization
HF specific mortality
HF specific hospitalization
All cause duration of hospital stay
HF specific duration of hospital stay
Emergency room visits
Quality of Life
Summary of Findings
One large and seven small randomized controlled trials were obtained from the literature search.
A meta-analysis was completed for four of the seven outcomes including:
All cause mortality
HF-specific mortality
All cause hospitalization
HF-specific hospitalization.
Where the pooled analysis was associated with significant heterogeneity, subgroup analyses were completed using two primary categories:
direct and indirect model of care; and
type of control group (PCP or cardiologist).
The direct model of care was a clinic-based multidisciplinary HF program and the indirect model of care was a physician supervised, nurse-led telephonic HF program.
All studies, except one, were completed in jurisdictions outside North America. (12-19) Similarly, all but one study had a sample size of less than 250. The mean age in the studies ranged from 65 to 77 years. Six of the studies(12;14-18) included populations with a NYHA classification of II-III. In two studies, the control treatment was a cardiologist (12;15) and two studies reported the inclusion of a dietitian, physiotherapist and psychologist as members of the multidisciplinary team (12;19).
All Cause Mortality
Eight studies reported all cause mortality (number of persons) at 1 year follow-up. (12-19) When the results of all eight studies were pooled, there was a statistically significant RRR of 29% with moderate heterogeneity (I2 of 38%). The results of the subgroup analyses indicated a significant RRR of 40% in all cause mortality when SMCCC is delivered through a direct team model (clinic) and a 35% RRR when SMCCC was compared with a primary care practitioner.
HF-Specific Mortality
Three studies reported HF-specific mortality (number of persons) at 1 year follow-up. (15;18;19) When the results of these were pooled, there was an insignificant RRR of 42% with high statistical heterogeneity (I2 of 60%). The GRADE quality of evidence is moderate for the pooled analysis of all studies.
All Cause Hospitalization
Seven studies reported all cause hospitalization at 1-year follow-up (13-15;17-19). When pooled, their results showed a statistically insignificant 12% increase in hospitalizations in the SMCCC group with high statistical heterogeneity (I2 of 81%). A significant RRR of 12% in all cause hospitalization in favour of the SMCCC care group was achieved when SMCCC was delivered using an indirect model (telephonic) with an associated (I2 of 0%). The Grade quality of evidence was found to be low for the pooled analysis of all studies and moderate for the subgroup analysis of the indirect team care model.
HF-Specific Hospitalization
Six studies reported HF-specific hospitalization at 1-year follow-up. (13-15;17;19) When pooled, the results of these studies showed an insignificant RRR of 14% with high statistical heterogeneity (I2 of 60%); however, the quality of evidence for the pooled analysis of was low.
Duration of Hospital Stay
Seven studies reported duration of hospital stay, four in terms of mean duration of stay in days (14;16;17;19) and three in terms of total hospital bed days (12;13;18). Most studies reported all cause duration of hospital stay while two also reported HF-specific duration of hospital stay. These data were not amenable to meta-analyses as standard deviations were not provided in the reports. However, in general (and in all but one study) it appears that persons receiving SMCCC had shorter hospital stays, whether measured as mean days in hospital or total hospital bed days.
Emergency Room Visits
Only one study reported emergency room visits. (14) This was presented as a composite of readmissions and ER visits, where the authors reported that 77% (59/76) of the SMCCC group and 84% (63/75) of the usual care group were either readmitted or had an ER visit within the 1 year of follow-up (P=0.029).
Quality of Life
Quality of life was reported in five studies using the Minnesota Living with HF Questionnaire (MLHFQ) (12-15;19) and in one study using the Nottingham Health Profile Questionnaire(16). The MLHFQ results are reported in our analysis. Two studies reported the mean score at 1 year follow-up, although did not provide the standard deviation of the mean in their report. One study reported the median and range scores at 1 year follow-up in each group. Two studies reported the change scores of the physical and emotional subscales of the MLHFQ of which only one study reported a statistically significant change from baseline to 1 year follow-up between treatment groups in favour of the SMCCC group in the physical sub-scale. A significant change in the emotional subscale scores from baseline to 1 year follow-up in the treatment groups was not reported in either study.
Conclusion
There is moderate quality evidence that SMCCC reduces all cause mortality by 29%. There is low quality evidence that SMCCC contributes to a shorter duration of hospital stay and improves quality of life compared to usual care. The evidence supports that SMCCC is effective when compared to usual care provided by either a primary care practitioner or a cardiologist. It does not, however, suggest an optimal model of care or discern what the effective program components are. A field evaluation could address this uncertainty.
PMCID: PMC3377506  PMID: 23074521
13.  GP and nurses' perceptions of how after hours care for people receiving palliative care at home could be improved: a mixed methods study 
BMC Palliative Care  2009;8:13.
Background
Primary health care providers play a dominant role in the provision of palliative care (PC) in Australia but many gaps in after hours service remain. In some rural areas only 19% of people receiving palliative care achieve their goal of dying at home. This study, which builds on an earlier qualitative phase of the project, investigates the gaps in care from the perspective of general practitioners (GPs) and PC nurses.
Methods
Questionnaires, developed from the outcomes of the earlier phase, and containing both structured and open ended questions, were distributed through Divisions of General Practice (1 urban, 1 rural, 1 mixed) to GPs (n = 524) and through a special interest group to palliative care nurses (n = 122) in both rural and urban areas.
Results
Questionnaires were returned by 114 GPs (22%) and 52 nurses (43%). The majority of GPs were associated with a practice which provided some after hours services but PC was not a strong focus for most. This was reflected in low levels of PC training, limited awareness of the existence of after hours triage services in their area, and of the availability of Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) Medicare items for care planning for palliative patients. However, more than half of both nurses and GPs were aware of accessible PC resources.
Factors such as poor communication and limited availability of after hours services were identified the as most likely to impact negatively on service provision. Strategies considered most likely to improve after hours services were individual patient protocols, palliative care trained respite carers and regular multidisciplinary meetings that included the GP.
Conclusion
While some of the identified gaps can only be met by long term funding and policy change, educational tools for use in training programs in PC for health professionals, which focus on the utilisation of EPC Medicare items in palliative care planning, the development of advance care plans and good communication between members of multidisciplinary teams, which include the GP, may enhance after hours service provision for patients receiving palliative care at home. The role of locums in after PC is an area for further research
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-8-13
PMCID: PMC2753575  PMID: 19751527
14.  Factors supporting good partnership working between generalist and specialist palliative care services: a systematic review 
The British Journal of General Practice  2012;62(598):e353-e362.
Background
The care that most people receive at the end of their lives is provided not by specialist palliative care professionals but by generalists such as GPs, district nurses and others who have not undertaken specialist training in palliative care. A key focus of recent UK policy is improving partnership working across the spectrum of palliative care provision. However there is little evidence to suggest factors which support collaborative working between specialist and generalist palliative care providers
Aim
To explore factors that support partnership working between specialist and generalist palliative care providers.
Design
Systematic review.
Method
A systematic review of studies relating to partnership working between specialist and generalist palliative care providers was undertaken. Six electronic databases were searched for papers published up until January 2011.
Results
Of the 159 articles initially identified, 22 papers met the criteria for inclusion. Factors supporting good partnership working included: good communication between providers; clear definition of roles and responsibilities; opportunities for shared learning and education; appropriate and timely access to specialist palliative care services; and coordinated care.
Conclusion
Multiple examples exist of good partnership working between specialist and generalist providers; however, there is little consistency regarding how models of collaborative working are developed, and which models are most effective. Little is known about the direct impact of collaborative working on patient outcomes. Further research is required to gain the direct perspectives of health professionals and patients regarding collaborative working in palliative care, and to develop appropriate and cost-effective models for partnership working.
doi:10.3399/bjgp12X641474
PMCID: PMC3338057  PMID: 22546595
collaborative working; generalist palliative care; partnership working; specialist palliative care
15.  Heart Failure and Palliative Care: Conceptualization in Practice 
Journal of palliative medicine  2009;12(6):531-536.
The numbers of people with heart failure is continually rising. Despite continued medical advances that may prolong life, there is no cure. While typical heart failure trajectories include the risk of sudden death, heart failure is typically characterized by periods of stability interrupted by acute exacerbations. The unpredictable nature of this disease and the inability to predict its terminal phase has resulted in few services beyond medical management being offered. Yet, this population has documented unmet needs that extend beyond routine medical care. Palliative care has been proposed as a strategy to meet these needs, however these services are rarely offered. Although palliative care should be implemented early in the disease process, in practice it is tied to end-of-life care. The purpose of this study was to uncover whether the conceptualization of palliative care for heart failure as end-of-life care may inhibit the provision of these services. The meaning of palliative care in heart failure was explored from three perspectives: scientific literature, healthcare providers, and spousal caregivers of patients with heart failure. There is confusion in the literature and by the health care community about the meaning of the term palliative care and what the provision of these services entails. Palliative care was equated to end-of-life care, and as a result, healthcare providers may be reluctant to discuss palliative care with heart failure patients early in the disease trajectory. Most family caregivers have not heard of the term and all would be receptive to an offer of palliative care at some point during the disease trajectory.
doi:10.1089/jpm.2009.0010
PMCID: PMC2803059  PMID: 19508139
16.  The lived experience of breathlessness and its implications for care: a qualitative comparison in cancer, COPD, heart failure and MND 
BMC Palliative Care  2011;10:15.
Background
Breathlessness is one of the core symptoms, particularly persistent and frequent, towards the end of life. There is no evidence of how the experience of breathlessness differs across conditions. This paper compares the experience of breathlessness in cancer, COPD, heart failure and MND, four conditions sharing heavy symptom burdens, poor prognoses, high breathlessness rates and palliative care needs.
Methods
For this qualitative study a purposive sample of 48 patients was included with a diagnosis of cancer (10), COPD (18), heart failure (10) or MND (10) and experiencing daily problems of breathlessness. Patients were recruited from the respective clinics at the hospital; specialist nurses' ward rounds and consultations, and "Breathe Easy" service users meetings in the community. Data were collected through semi-structured, in-depth interviews and participant observation. Breathlessness was compared according to six components derived from explanatory models and symptom schemata, first within groups and then across groups. Frequency counts were conducted to check the qualitative findings.
Results
All conditions shared the disabling effects of breathlessness. However there were differences between the four conditions, in the specific constraints of the illness and patients' experiences with the health care context and social environment. In cancer, breathlessness signalled the (possible) presence of cancer, and functioned as a reminder of patients' mortality despite the hopes they put in surgery, therapies and new drugs. For COPD patients, breathlessness was perceived as a self-inflicted symptom. Its insidious nature and response from services disaffirmed their experience and gradually led to greater disability in the course of illness. Patients with heart failure perceived breathlessness as a contributing factor to the negative effects of other symptoms. In MND breathlessness meant that the illness was a dangerous threat to patients' lives. COPD and heart failure had similar experiences.
Conclusion
Integrated palliative care is needed, that makes use of all appropriate therapeutic options, collaborative efforts from health, social care professionals, patients and caregivers, and therapies that acknowledge the dynamic interrelation of the body, mind and spirit.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-10-15
PMCID: PMC3206451  PMID: 22004467
17.  Systematic review of whether nurse practitioners working in primary care can provide equivalent care to doctors 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2002;324(7341):819-823.
Objective
To determine whether nurse practitioners can provide care at first point of contact equivalent to doctors in a primary care setting.
Design
Systematic review of randomised controlled trials and prospective observational studies.
Data sources
Cochrane controlled trials register, specialist register of trials maintained by Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group, Medline, Embase, CINAHL, science citation index, database of abstracts of reviews of effectiveness, national research register, hand searches, and published bibliographies.
Included studies
Randomised controlled trials and prospective observational studies comparing nurse practitioners and doctors providing care at first point of contact for patients with undifferentiated health problems in a primary care setting and providing data on one or more of the following outcomes: patient satisfaction, health status, costs, and process of care.
Results
11 trials and 23 observational studies met all the inclusion criteria. Patients were more satisfied with care by a nurse practitioner (standardised mean difference 0.27, 95% confidence interval 0.07 to 0.47). No differences in health status were found. Nurse practitioners had longer consultations (weighted mean difference 3.67 minutes, 2.05 to 5.29) and made more investigations (odds ratio 1.22, 1.02 to 1.46) than did doctors. No differences were found in prescriptions, return consultations, or referrals. Quality of care was in some ways better for nurse practitioner consultations.
Conclusion
Increasing availability of nurse practitioners in primary care is likely to lead to high levels of patient satisfaction and high quality care.
What is already known on this topicNurse practitioners have existed in North America for many yearsAn increasing number of such nurses are being employed in the United Kingdom in general practice, emergency departments, and other primary care settingsReviews suggest that nurse practitioners are equivalent to doctors on most variables studied, but the relevance of this in the context of the NHS is unclearWhat this study addsPatients are more satisfied with care from a nurse practitioner than from a doctor, with no difference in health outcomesNurse practitioners provide longer consultations and carry out more investigations than doctorsMost recent research has related to patients requesting same day appointments for minor illness, which is only a limited part of a doctor's role
PMCID: PMC100791  PMID: 11934775
18.  A reassuring presence: An evaluation of Bradford District Hospice at Home service 
Background
Within the United Kingdom, a developing role for primary care services in cancer and palliative care has resulted in an increase in palliative home care teams. The provision of professional care in the home setting seeks to provide necessary services and enhanced choice for patients whose preference is to die at home.
A mismatch between patient preference for home death and the actual number of people who died at home was identified within Bradford, the locality of this study. In response to this mismatch, and reflecting the policy environment of wishing to enhance community service provision, the four Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in the city sought to offer support to patients who wished to remain in their own homes through the final stages of a terminal illness. To offer this support they set up a dedicated hospice at home team. This would provide services and support for patients in achieving a dignified, symptom free and peaceful death, allowing families to maximise time spent together. The aim of the study was to evaluate the Bradford hospice at home service from the perspective of carers, nurses and General Practitioners.
Methods
Postal questionnaires were sent to carers (n = 289), district nurses (n = 508) and GP's (n = 444) using Bradford's hospice at home service. Resulting quantitative data was analysed using the Statical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and qualitative data was analysed using grounded theory techniques.
Results
The data from carers, district nurses and GPs provide general support for the Bradford hospice at home service. Carers valued highly the opportunity to 'fulfil a promise' to the individual who wished to be cared for at home. District nurses and GPs cited the positive impact of access to specialist expertise. This was a 'reassuring presence' for primary healthcare teams and offered 'relief of carer anxiety' by providing prompt, accessible and sensitive care.
Conclusion
Carers and health professionals welcomed the increased possibility of patients being cared for at home. The study identified the need to focus on improving skill levels of staff and on ensuring continuity of care.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-7-9
PMCID: PMC2533294  PMID: 18673558
19.  Primary care group commissioning of services: the differing priorities of general practitioners and district nurses for palliative care services. 
BACKGROUND: General practitioners (GPs) have become more responsible for budget allocation over the years. The 1997 White Paper has signalled major changes in GPs' roles in commissioning. In general, palliative care is ranked as a high priority, and such services are therefore likely to be early candidates for commissioning. AIM: To examine the different commissioning priorities within the primary health care team (PHCT) by ascertaining the views of GPs and district nurses (DNs) concerning their priorities for the future planning of local palliative care services and the adequacy of services as currently provided. METHOD: A postal questionnaire survey was sent to 167 GP principals and 96 registered DNs in the Cambridge area to ascertain ratings of service development priority and service adequacy, for which written comments were received. RESULTS: Replies were received from 141 (84.4%) GPs and 86 (90%) DNs. Both professional groups agreed that the most important service developments were urgent hospice admission for symptom control or terminal care, and Marie Curie nurses. GPs gave greater priority than DNs to specialist doctor home visits and Macmillan nurses. DNs gave greater priority than GPs to Marie Curie nurses, hospital-at-home, non-cancer patients' urgent hospice admission, day care, and hospice outpatients. For each of the eight services where significant differences were found in perceptions of service adequacy, DNs rated the service to be less adequate than GPs. CONCLUSION: The 1997 White Paper, The New NHS, has indicated that the various forms of GP purchasing are to be replaced by primary care groups (PCGs), in which both GPs and DNs are to be involved in commissioning decisions. For many palliative care services, DNs' views of service adequacy and priorities for future development differ significantly from their GP colleagues; resolution of these differences will need to be attained within PCGs. Both professional groups give high priority to the further development of quick-response clinical services, especially urgent hospice admission and Marie Curie nurses.
PMCID: PMC1313368  PMID: 10343419
20.  Modelling the landscape of palliative care for people with dementia: a European mixed methods study 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:30.
Background
Palliative care for people with dementia is often sub-optimal. This is partly because of the challenging nature of dementia itself, and partly because of system failings that are particularly salient in primary care and community services. There is a need to systematize palliative care for people with dementia, to clarify where changes in practice could be made.
To develop a model of palliative care for people with dementia that captures commonalities and differences across Europe, a technology development approach was adopted, using mixed methods including 1) critical synthesis of the research literature and policy documents, 2) interviews with national experts in policy, service organisation, service delivery, patient and carer interests, and research in palliative care, and 3) nominal groups of researchers tasked with synthesising data and modelling palliative care.
Discussion
A generic model of palliative care, into which quality indicators can be embedded. The proposed model includes features deemed important for the systematisation of palliative care for people with dementia. These are: the division of labour amongst practitioners of different disciplines; the structure and function of care planning; the management of rising risk and increasing complexity; boundaries between disease-modifying treatment and palliative care and between palliative and end-of-life care; and the process of bereavement.
Summary
The co-design approach to developing a generic model of palliative care for people with dementia has placed the person needing palliative care within a landscape of services and professional disciplines. This model will be explored further in the intervention phase of the IMPACT project.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-12-30
PMCID: PMC3751306  PMID: 23937891
21.  Heart Failure Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(8):e1001699.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Kazem Rahimi and colleagues examine the burden of heart failure in low- and middle-income countries.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Heart failure places a significant burden on patients and health systems in high-income countries. However, information about its burden in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is scant. We thus set out to review both published and unpublished information on the presentation, causes, management, and outcomes of heart failure in LMICs.
Methods and Findings
Medline, Embase, Global Health Database, and World Health Organization regional databases were searched for studies from LMICs published between 1 January 1995 and 30 March 2014. Additional unpublished data were requested from investigators and international heart failure experts. We identified 42 studies that provided relevant information on acute hospital care (25 LMICs; 232,550 patients) and 11 studies on the management of chronic heart failure in primary care or outpatient settings (14 LMICs; 5,358 patients). The mean age of patients studied ranged from 42 y in Cameroon and Ghana to 75 y in Argentina, and mean age in studies largely correlated with the human development index of the country in which they were conducted (r = 0.71, p<0.001). Overall, ischaemic heart disease was the main reported cause of heart failure in all regions except Africa and the Americas, where hypertension was predominant. Taking both those managed acutely in hospital and those in non-acute outpatient or community settings together, 57% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 49%–64%) of patients were treated with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, 34% (95% CI: 28%–41%) with beta-blockers, and 32% (95% CI: 25%–39%) with mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists. Mean inpatient stay was 10 d, ranging from 3 d in India to 23 d in China. Acute heart failure accounted for 2.2% (range: 0.3%–7.7%) of total hospital admissions, and mean in-hospital mortality was 8% (95% CI: 6%–10%). There was substantial variation between studies (p<0.001 across all variables), and most data were from urban tertiary referral centres. Only one population-based study assessing incidence and/or prevalence of heart failure was identified.
Conclusions
The presentation, underlying causes, management, and outcomes of heart failure vary substantially across LMICs. On average, the use of evidence-based medications tends to be suboptimal. Better strategies for heart failure surveillance and management in LMICs are needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A healthy heart pumps about 23,000 liters of blood around the body every day. This blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the body and carries carbon dioxide and waste products away from the tissues and organs. A healthy heart is therefore essential for life. Unfortunately, many people (particularly elderly people) develop heart failure, a life-threatening condition in which the heart no longer pumps enough blood to meet all the body's needs because it has become too weak or too stiff to work properly. Heart failure can affect the left, right, or both sides of the heart, and it can develop slowly (chronic heart failure) or quickly (acute heart failure). Its symptoms include swelling (edema) of the feet, ankles, and legs, tiredness, and shortness of breath. Heart failure, which is most commonly caused by coronary heart disease (blockage with fatty deposits of the blood vessels that supply the heart) or high blood pressure (hypertension), cannot be cured. However, lifestyle changes (for example, losing weight and avoiding salty food) and various medications can control heart failure and improve the quality of life of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
In high-income countries (HICs), heart failure is a common condition that typically consumes 1%–2% of healthcare resources. Experts believe that heart failure may soon become a major public health issue in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) because fewer people are dying of infectious diseases in these countries than in the past. LMICs need to plan for this eventuality, but little is known about the current burden of heart failure in LMICs. Here, the researchers undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished information on the presentation, causes, management, and outcomes of heart failure in LMICs. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis uses statistical approaches to combine the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 49 published studies and four unpublished databases that provided information on nearly 240,000 hospitalizations for acute and chronic heart failure in 31 LMICs. Across these LMICs, the average age of patients admitted to hospital for heart failure was 63 years, more than ten years younger than the average admission age in HICs. Differences in mean age at presentation, which ranged from 42 years in Cameroon and Ghana to 75 years in Argentina, largely correlated with the human development index (a measure of national well-being) of individual LMICs. Notably, acute heart failure accounted for 2.2% of all hospital admissions in the LMICs for which data were available. Hypertension was the main cause of heart failure in Africa and the Americas, whereas ischemic heart disease was the main cause in all other regions. More than two-thirds of patients were prescribed diuretics for heart failure, whereas only 57% of patients were treated with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, only 34% were treated with beta-blockers, and only 32% were treated with mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists, the three treatments currently recommended in guidelines for managing heart failure. Finally, on average, patients admitted to hospital for heart failure in LMICs spent ten days in hospital, and 8.3% of them died in hospital (compared to 6.7% and 4% of similar patients across Europe and the US, respectively).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the presentation, causes, management, and outcomes of heart failure vary substantially across LMICs. Importantly, however, these findings reveal that heart failure is already a major burden in LMICs and that the use of recommended medications for heart failure is currently suboptimal in these countries. Because the studies included in this systematic review and meta-analysis set out to answer different research questions and used different methods to diagnose heart failure, the estimates of the burden of heart failure in LMICs provided here may not be completely accurate. Moreover, because the data were derived mainly from urban tertiary referral hospitals, these findings may not reflect the broader picture of heart failure in the community in LMICs. However, although additional studies are needed to completely assess the burden of heart failure in LMICs, the present findings nevertheless highlight the need to implement better strategies for the management of heart failure in LMICs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001699.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Druin Burch
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides information for patients about heart failure
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about all aspects of heart failure
The American Heart Association, a not-for-profit organization, also provides detailed information about heart failure for patients and their carers
The British Heart Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, provides additional information about heart failure, including a personal story about heart failure; further personal stories about heart failure are provided by the not-for-profit organization Healthtalkonline
Heart Failure Matters provides practical information about heart failure for patients, families, and caregivers in several languages; its website includes an animated journey through heart failure and several personal stories about the condition
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about heart failure (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001699
PMCID: PMC4130667  PMID: 25117081
22.  The Diverse Landscape of Palliative Care Clinics 
Journal of Palliative Medicine  2013;16(6):661-668.
Abstract
Background
Many health care organizations are interested in instituting a palliative care clinic. However, there are insufficient published data regarding existing practices to inform the development of new programs.
Objective
Our objective was to obtain in-depth information about palliative care clinics.
Methods
We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 20 outpatient palliative care practices in diverse care settings. The survey included both closed- and open-ended questions regarding practice size, utilization of services, staffing, referrals, services offered, funding, impetus for starting, and challenges.
Results
Twenty of 21 (95%) practices responded. Practices self-identified as: hospital-based (n=7), within an oncology division/cancer center (n=5), part of an integrated health system (n=6), and hospice-based (n=2). The majority of referred patients had a cancer diagnosis. Additional common diagnoses included chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, neurologic disorders, and congestive heart failure. All practices ranked “pain management” and “determining goals of care” as the most common reasons for referrals. Twelve practices staffed fewer than 5 half-days of clinic per week, with 7 operating only one half-day per week. Practices were staffed by a mixture of physicians, advanced practice nurses or nurse practitioners, nurses, or social workers. Eighteen practices expected their practice to grow within the next year. Eleven practices noted a staffing shortage and 8 had a wait time of a week or more for a new patient appointment. Only 12 practices provide 24/7 coverage. Billing and institutional support were the most common funding sources. Most practices described starting because inpatient palliative providers perceived poor quality outpatient care in the outpatient setting. The most common challenges included: funding for staffing (11) and being overwhelmed with referrals (8).
Conclusions
Once established, outpatient palliative care practices anticipate rapid growth. In this context, outpatient practices must plan for increased staffing and develop a sustainable financial model.
doi:10.1089/jpm.2012.0469
PMCID: PMC3668622  PMID: 23662953
23.  Perceptions and Utilization of Palliative Care Services in Acute Care Hospitals 
Journal of palliative medicine  2007;10(1):99-110.
Objective
To understand perceptions of palliative care in acute care hospitals and identify barriers to earlier use of palliative care in the illness trajectory.
Methods
We conducted semistructured interviews with 120 providers involved in decision making or discharge planning and “shadowed” health care providers on intensive care unit rounds in 11 Pennsylvania hospitals, and then used qualitative methods to analyze field notes and transcripts.
Results
Most participants characterized palliative care as end-of-life or hospice care that is initiated after the decision to limit treatment is made. Few recognized the role of palliative care in managing symptoms and addressing the psychosocial needs of patients with chronic illnesses other than cancer. Participants viewed earlier and broader palliative care consultations less in terms of clinical benefits than in terms of cost savings accrued from shorter terminal hospitalizations. In general, participants thought nurses were most likely to facilitate palliative care consults, surgeons were most likely to resist them, and intensive care specialists were most likely to view palliative care as within their own scope of practice. Suggestions for increasing and broadening palliative care integration and utilization included providing workforce development, education, and training; improving financial reimbursement and sustainability for palliative care; and fostering a hospital culture that turns to high -intensity care only if it meets the individual needs and goals of patients with chronic illnesses.
Conclusions
Initiating palliative care consultations earlier during hospitalization will require an emphasis on patient benefits and assurances that palliative care will not threaten provider autonomy.
doi:10.1089/jpm.2006.0155
PMCID: PMC4070316  PMID: 17298258
care; palliative; qualitative research; social perceptions; utilization
24.  Public awareness and attitudes toward palliative care in Northern Ireland 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:34.
Background
The World Health Organisation recognises palliative care as a global public health issue and this is reflected at strategic level. Despite this, palliative care may not be universally welcomed. Surveys over the last decade have suggested that the general public have a lack of knowledge and negative perceptions towards palliative care. A detailed and comprehensive understanding of public views is needed in order to target education and policy campaigns and to manage future needs, expectations and resourcing of end of life care. The aim of this study was to establish the current levels of awareness and attitudes towards palliative care among the general public in Northern Ireland.
Methods
A community-based cross-sectional survey with a population of 3,557 individuals aged over 17 years was performed. Information was collected using a structured questionnaire consisting of 17 items. Open questions were subject to content analysis; closed questions were subject to descriptive statistics with inferential testing as appropriate.
Results
A total of 600 responses were obtained (response rate 17%). Responses indicated limited knowledge about palliative care. Female gender and previous experience influenced awareness in a positive direction. Respondents who worked in healthcare themselves or who had a close relative or friend who had used a palliative care service were more aware of palliative care and the availability of different palliative care services. Findings reveal the preferred place of care was the family home. The main barriers to raising awareness were fear, lack of interaction with health services and perception of lack of resources. A number of strategies to enhance awareness, access and community involvement in palliative care were suggested.
Conclusions
Public awareness of the concept of palliative care and of service availability remains insufficient for widespread effective and appropriate palliative care to be accepted as the norm. In particular, those without previous family-related experiences lack awareness. This has implications for palliative care service provision and policy. An increased awareness of palliative care is needed, in order to improve knowledge of and access to services when required, empower individuals, involve communities and ultimately to realise the objectives contained within international strategies for palliative and end-of-life care.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-12-34
PMCID: PMC3848719  PMID: 24044631
Palliative care; General public; Awareness; Questionnaire; Survey
25.  Barriers to accurate diagnosis and effective management of heart failure in primary care: qualitative study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2003;326(7382):196.
Objective
To ascertain the beliefs, current practices, and decision making of general practitioners in the diagnosis and management of suspected heart failure in primary care, with a view to identifying barriers to good care.
Design
A qualitative approach using focus groups with 30 general practitioners from four primary care groups. The sampling strategy was stratified and purposive. The contents of interviews were transcribed and analysed according to the principles of “pragmatic variant” grounded theory.
Setting
North east England.
Results
Three categories of difficulties contribute to variations in medical practice and to the reasons why general practitioners experience difficulties in diagnosing and managing heart failure. The first is uncertainty about clinical practice, including lack of confidence in establishing an accurate diagnosis and worries about using angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, β blockers, and spironolactone in patients who are often elderly and frail, with comorbidity and polypharmacy. The second is a lack of awareness of relevant research evidence in what was perceived to be a complex and rapidly changing therapeutic field. Doubts about the applicability of research findings in primary care, and fear of information overload also emerged. The third category consists of influences of individual preference and local organisational factors. Medical training, negative clinical experiences, and outside agencies influenced the behaviour of general practitioners and professional culture. Local factors included the availability of diagnostic services, resources (such as accessible cardiologists), and interactions between professionals in primary or secondary care, and they seemed to shape the practice and decision making processes in primary care.
Conclusions
The national service framework for coronary heart disease stresses that the substandard care of patients with heart failure is unacceptable. This study identified barriers to be overcome across primary and secondary care in implementation strategies that are specific to the locality and multifaceted. Single strategies—for example, the provision of guidelines—are unlikely to have an impact on clinical outcomes, and new, conjoint models of care need to be explored.
What is already known on this topicHeart failure is a common condition with a high morbidity and mortality and is largely managed in primary careAlthough modern management with accurate diagnosis and treatment improves prognosis considerably, unacceptable variations exist in the clinical application of current guidelines for heart failureWhat this study addsGeneral practitioners expressed a lack of confidence in establishing an accurate diagnosis of left ventricular systolic dysfunction, even if open access echocardiography was availableUncertainty about diagnosis led to poor uptake of evidence based treatment strategies for heart failure patients, and, despite awareness, reluctance to initiate modern treatmentLocal organisational factors around NHS provision of diagnostic services, resources, and interaction between primary and secondary care influence how general practitioners manage heart failureImplementation strategies for heart failure management across primary and secondary care are needed that are specific to their locality and multifaceted
PMCID: PMC140276  PMID: 12543836

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