People with serious illness who are provided palliative care enjoy better quality of life, improved survival rates and fewer symptoms, says a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Carried out by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, it's the first meta-analysis to focus on palliative care and how it relates to patient quality life, survival and symptom burden.

Palliative Care Defined

As health care for people with serious illness, palliative care is geared toward providing relief from symptoms, stress and pain brought about by a health condition, regardless of the diagnosis. It differs then from hospice care that is aimed at providing specialized care for patients at the advanced stages of their diseases where the primary goal may be to be as comfortable as possible as final days are lived out.

Palliative care may also be provide by specialists or non-specialists, like primary care doctors.

Palliative Care Study Results

After reviewing 43 trials involving palliative interventions, which included 12,731 adults diagnosed with serious illness as well as 2,479 family caregivers, the researchers found that patients were satisfied with their overall health, at what could be considered one of the hardest times in their life, after receiving palliative care.

They also saw that palliative care was connected to better planning for advanced care, lower utilization of health care and satisfaction for the level of care provided from both caregiver and patient, although evidence was mixed in terms of the patient's mood, the caregiver's quality of life and health care expenses.

"Taken all together, this is a very compelling message," said Dio Kavalieratos, Ph.D., the study's lead author.

The Future Of Palliative Care

Traditionally, palliative care was offered to cancer patients but anyone seriously sick will benefit from high-quality specialized care designed to ease suffering and improve quality of life, pointed out the researchers. Kavalieratos added that it is crucial to figure out how palliative care can be integrated into a patient's usual care experiences so it is not treated as a luxury but rather as a health care standard for those who are seriously ill.

Over the last five years, palliative care has received a lot of attention as a means of improving patient survival rates. Some studies have shown proof of this, but the researchers say there remains a need to develop ways of examining how palliative care affects not just the people who are seriously sick but also those who care for them.

The current study was provided with funding support by the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.