Hospital-based specialist palliative care compared with usual care for adults with advanced illness and their caregivers: a systematic review

Oluyase AO, Higginson IJ, Yi D, Gao W, Evans CJ, Grande G, Todd C, Costantini M, Murtagh FE, Bajwah S
Record ID 32018001237
Authors' objectives: Most deaths still take place in hospital; cost-effective commissioning of end-of-life resources is a priority. This review provides clarity on the effectiveness of hospital-based specialist palliative care. The objectives were to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of hospital-based specialist palliative care.
Authors' results and conclusions: Forty-two randomised controlled trials involving 7779 participants (6678 patients and 1101 unpaid caregivers) were included. Diagnoses of participants were as follows: cancer, 21 studies; non-cancer, 14 studies; and mixed cancer and non-cancer, seven studies. Hospital-based specialist palliative care was offered in the following models: ward based (one study), inpatient consult (10 studies), outpatient (six studies), hospital at home or hospital outreach (five studies) and multiple settings that included hospital (20 studies). Meta-analyses demonstrated significant improvement favouring hospital-based specialist palliative care over usual care in patient health-related quality of life (10 studies, standardised mean difference 0.26, 95% confidence interval 0.15 to 0.37; I2 = 3%) and patient satisfaction with care (two studies, standardised mean difference 0.36, 95% confidence interval 0.14 to 0.57; I2 = 0%), a significant reduction in patient symptom burden (six studies, standardised mean difference –0.26, 95% confidence interval –0.41 to –0.12; I2 = 0%) and patient depression (eight studies, standardised mean difference –0.22, 95% confidence interval –0.34 to –0.10; I2 = 0%), and a significant increase in the chances of patients dying in their preferred place (measured by number of patients with home death) (seven studies, odds ratio 1.63, 95% confidence interval 1.23 to 2.16; I2 = 0%). There were non-significant improvements in pain (four studies, standardised mean difference –0.16, 95% confidence interval –0.33 to 0.01; I2 = 0%) and patient anxiety (five studies, mean difference –0.63, 95% confidence interval –2.22 to 0.96; I2 = 76%). Hospital-based specialist palliative care showed no evidence of causing serious harm. The evidence on mortality/survival and cost-effectiveness was inconclusive. Qualitative studies (10 studies, 322 participants) suggested that hospital-based specialist palliative care was beneficial as it ensured personalised and holistic care for patients and their families, while also fostering open communication, shared decision-making and respectful and compassionate care. Hospital-based specialist palliative care may offer benefits for person-centred outcomes including health-related quality of life, symptom burden, patient depression and satisfaction with care, while also increasing the chances of patients dying in their preferred place (measured by home death) with little evidence of harm.
Authors' methods: Adult patients with advanced illnesses and their unpaid caregivers. Hospital-based specialist palliative care. Inpatient or outpatient hospital care without specialist palliative care input at the point of entry to the study, or community care or hospice care provided outside the hospital setting (usual care). Patient health-related quality of life and symptom burden. Six databases (The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, PsycINFO and CareSearch), clinical trial registers, reference lists and systematic reviews were searched to August 2019. Two independent reviewers screened, data extracted and assessed methodological quality. Meta-analysis was carried out using RevMan (The Cochrane Collaboration, The Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark), with separate synthesis of qualitative data. In almost half of the included randomised controlled trials, there was palliative care involvement in the control group.
Authors' identified further reserach: More studies are needed of populations with non-malignant diseases, different models of hospital-based specialist palliative care, and cost-effectiveness.
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2021
URL for additional information: English
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Full HTA
Country: England
DOI: 10.3310/hsdr09120
MeSH Terms
  • Palliative Care
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing
  • Terminal Care
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals
  • Patient Care Team
  • Caregivers
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • COST
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
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This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.