The communication experiences of patients with palliative care needs: A systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative findings

Palliat Support Care. 2015 Apr;13(2):369-83. doi: 10.1017/S1478951514000455. Epub 2014 May 2.


Objective: Optimal communication is essential in ensuring that the palliative care needs of patients are met. This continues to be an area of concern for healthcare providers. The goal of our present review was to gain a deeper understanding of the communication experiences of patients with palliative care needs that have been identified within the qualitative literature.

Method: A systematic search for qualitative research papers was undertaken in February of 2012. Five databases (ASSIA, CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsychArticles, and PsychINFO) were searched using the search terms ["palliative care" OR "terminal care" OR "end of life care"] AND ["experience" OR "perspective" OR "qualitative" OR "interview"] AND ["patients" OR "clients" OR "service-user"]. Meta-synthesis was conducted on the data within the found papers.

Results: A line-of-argument synthesis of 15 studies yielded four overarching themes: talking-facilitating and inhibiting factors; the importance of humanitarian qualities within communication encounters; perceptions of autonomy within communication experiences; and individual differences in preferences for honesty within interactions.

Significance of results: Our findings are discussed in relation to existing literature and offer a deeper insight into the communication experiences of this clinical population. A number of clinical implications are offered for the healthcare professionals who are providing support to patients with palliative care needs.

Keywords: Patients.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care*
  • Terminal Care*