Goal: This study assessed the degree to which services in south-central Ontario, Canada, were coordinated to meet the supportive care needs of palliative cancer patients and their families.
Participants and method: Programs within the region that were identified as providing supportive care to palliative cancer patients and their families were eligible to participate in the study. Program administrators participated in a semi-structured interview and direct-care providers completed a survey instrument.
Main results: Administrators from 37 (97%) of 38 eligible programs and 109 direct-care providers representing 26 (70%) programs participated in the study. Most administrator and direct-care respondents felt that existing services in the community were responsive to palliative care patients' individual needs. However, at a system level, most respondents in both groups felt that required services were not available and that resources were inadequate. The most frequently reported unmet supportive care need identified by both respondent groups was psychological/social support. Most administrator (69%) and direct-care (64%) respondents felt that palliative care services were not available when needed. The majority of administrator and direct-care respondents were satisfied with the exchange of patient information within and between programs, although direct-care staff identified a deficit in information transferred on palliative care patients' social/psychological status.
Conclusions: The study demonstrated the value of a theory-based approach to evaluate the coordination of palliative cancer care services. The findings revealed that service programs faced significant challenges in their efforts to provide coordinated care.