The Impact of the Early Introduction of Palliative Care on Patient Functioning

February 2015

Palliative care is typically associated with services provided to terminally ill cancer patients. Increasingly, however, palliative care is considered a treatment option for other life-limiting illnesses and for easing chronic pain. Even though palliative care encompasses hospice care toward the end of life, the introduction of palliative care treatments earlier in a patient’s disease course can benefit the patient. All hospice care is palliative, but all palliative care is not hospice care. Interest is growing in initiating palliative care earlier in patient’s disease trajectory.

In a HCFO-funded study, Donald H. Taylor, Jr., Ph.D., Duke University, and colleagues examined whether the introduction of palliative care earlier in the disease course can improve patient functioning, leading to an improvement in the patient’s quality of life.  To test their hypothesis, the researchers used a community-based sample of patients from the Carolinas Palliative Care Database Consortium. The sample included diverse patients whose experiences across a variety of clinical settings were likely similar to the experiences of patients receiving palliative care across the country.