Does palliative care improve quality? A survey of bereaved family members

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2008 Jul;36(1):22-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.09.008. Epub 2008 Apr 14.


Palliative care is the interdisciplinary specialty that aims to relieve suffering and improve the quality of care for patients with serious illness and their families. Although palliative care programs are becoming increasingly prevalent in U.S. hospitals, the impact of hospital palliative care consultation programs on the quality of care received by family members is not well understood. We conducted prospective quantitative telephonic interviews of family members of patients who died at Mount Sinai Medical Center between April and December 2005 using the validated "After-Death Bereaved Family Member Interview," to assess quality of medical care at the end of life. Multivariable techniques were used to compare family satisfaction of palliative care patients vs. usual care patients controlling for age, race (white vs. nonwhite), diagnosis (cancer vs. noncancer), socioeconomic status (Medicaid vs. non-Medicaid), and functional status (number of dependent activities of daily living). One hundred ninety eligible subjects were contacted and successful interviews were completed with 149 (78.4%) family members (54 palliative care and 95 usual care patients). Palliative care showed benefit, with 65% of palliative care patients' family members reporting that their emotional or spiritual needs were met, as compared to 35% of usual care patients' family members (P=0.004). Sixty-seven percent of palliative care patients' family members reported confidence in one or more self-efficacy domains, as compared to 44% of usual care patients' family members (P=0.03). Our study shows that palliative care consultation is associated with improved satisfaction, with attention to family and enhanced self-efficacy. Palliative care offers a unique approach by integrating the needs of the family into the care of the patient.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bereavement*
  • Data Collection
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / nursing*
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Terminal Care
  • Treatment Outcome