Quality indicators for palliative care services: mixed-method study testing for face validity, feasibility, discriminative power and usefulness

Palliat Med. 2015 Jan;29(1):71-82. doi: 10.1177/0269216314546712. Epub 2014 Sep 2.


Background: In the absence of a standardized, comprehensive and valid set of quality indicators for palliative care, we developed one for palliative care services in Belgium.

Aim: This study evaluates its face validity, feasibility, discriminative power and usefulness.

Design: We combined a quantitative analysis evaluating the answers with qualitative interviews with the contact persons of all participating services.

Setting: The quality indicator set was implemented in nine palliative care services in Belgium involving a measurement procedure with questionnaires to the patients of the services, their professional caregivers, family carers and physicians.

Results: The response rate was 56% for patients, 97% for caregivers, 56% for family carers and 65% for physicians, indicating good feasibility of the measurement procedure. During the interviews, caregivers found the indicator scores valid and none was extremely skewed, confirming their discriminative power. Still, 20 of the 80 indicators showed problems of feasibility and 5 of usefulness. One was discarded and the others were improved by changing either the formulation of the indicator or the questions used. Most participants expressed a desire for a smaller but still comprehensive set.

Conclusion: Based on the results, minor adjustments were made to individual indicators, to the measurement tools and to the procedure used; the quality indicators are now ready for further evaluation and use across palliative care services in Belgium. As soon as these indicators are being used systematically, it will be possible to demonstrate and compare quality at the national and international levels and to evaluate improvement initiatives.

Keywords: Quality indicators; feasibility studies; palliative care; palliative medicine; quality assessment; quality improvement; terminal care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Symptom Assessment