End-of-life care from the perspective of primary care providers

J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Oct;27(10):1287-93. doi: 10.1007/s11606-012-2088-3. Epub 2012 May 4.


Purpose: To explore the factors influencing primary care providers' ability to care for their dying patients in Michigan.

Methods: We conducted 16 focus groups to explore the provision of end-of-life care by 7 diverse primary care practices in southeast Michigan. Twenty-eight primary care providers and 22 clinical support staff participated in the study. Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: Primary care providers (PCPs) wanted to care for their dying patients and felt largely competent to provide end-of-life care. They and their staff reported the presence of five structural factors that influenced their ability to do so: (1) continuity of care to help patients make treatment decisions and plan for the end of life; (2) scheduling flexibility and time with patients to address emergent needs, provide emotional support, and conduct meaningful end-of-life discussions; (3) information-sharing with outside providers and within the primary care practice; (4) coordination of care to address patients' needs quickly; and (5) authority to act on behalf of their patients.

Conclusions: In order to provide end-of-life care, PCPs need structural supports within primary care for continuity of care, flexible scheduling, information-sharing, coordination of primary care, and protection of their authority.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / trends
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Health Personnel / trends
  • Humans
  • Physicians, Primary Care / psychology
  • Physicians, Primary Care / trends
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Primary Health Care / trends
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / psychology*