Effective health care integrates palliative care into the patients’ treatment plan as early as possible, but Palliative and End-of-Life Care: A Cancer System Performance Report suggests this may not always be happening in Canada. Palliative care is not limited to end-of-life care; it is effective for pain and symptom management during and beyond cancer treatment. A new report released by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer provides a baseline view of palliative and end-of-life care for patients with cancer across Canada. The report calls for earlier integration of palliative care into patients’ treatment plan, more community-based multidisciplinary palliative care services and better data to assess the quality and timeliness of palliative care.
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Effective health care integrates palliative care into the patients’ treatment plan as early as possible.
-Data suggest that more than two-thirds (66.4%) of patients with cancer receive inpatient palliative care only during their last hospitalization, which may be too late for patients to experience the full benefits of palliative care.
-It is important to identify, assess and refer patients who may benefit from palliative care early so that appropriate care can be integrated into their care plans as soon as possible.
There are barriers and gaps in measuring and reporting on palliative and end-of-life care in Canada.
-Data in the report focuses on end-of-life care delivered in acute-care institutions. This is due to limitations in available administrative data on palliative care needs and service delivery.
-We need to improve measurement and reporting on palliative care services delivered throughout the cancer pathway and in different settings.
Community-based resources and supports must be available (at home, in hospices and in long-term care facilities) to reduce reliance on acute care hospitalization.
-Patients dying from cancer have long and frequent hospital stays, signalling a potential gap in community based palliative care services (e.g. nursing or paramedic care, hospice care, respite care, home visits, medications or equipment).
-On average, half of patients dying from cancer spend two to three weeks in an acute-care hospital near the end of life.
-More than 70 percent (72.9%) of patients with cancer are admitted to an acute-care hospital near the end of life.