Palliative care focuses on the physical, spiritual, psychological, and social care from diagnosis to cure or death of a potentially life-threatening illness. When cure is not attainable and end of life approaches, the intensity of palliative care is enhanced to deliver the highest quality care experience. The emergency department (ED) frequently cares for patients and families during the end-of-life phase of the palliative care continuum. The intersection between palliative care and emergency care continues to be more clearly defined. Currently, there is a mounting body of evidence to guide the most effective strategies for improving palliative and end-of-life care in the ED. In a workgroup session at the 2009 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)/American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) conference "Improving the Quality and Efficiency of Emergency Care Across the Continuum: A Systems Approach," four key research questions arose: 1) which patients are in greatest need of palliative care services in the ED, 2) what is the optimal role of emergency clinicians in caring for patients along a chronic trajectory of illness, 3) how does the integration and initiation of palliative care training and services in the ED setting affect health care utilization, and 4) what are the educational priorities for emergency clinical providers in the domain of palliative care? Workgroup leaders suggest that these four key questions may be answered by strengthening the evidence using six categories of inquiry: descriptive, attitudinal, screening, outcomes, resource allocation, and education of clinicians.
© 2011 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.