Interprofessional Silence at the End of Life: Do Swiss General Practitioners and Hospital Physicians Sufficiently Share Information About Their Patients?

J Palliat Med. 2016 Sep;19(9):983-6. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2015.0377. Epub 2016 Apr 28.


Background: Empirical research suggests that the quality of patient care at the end of life (EOL) is influenced by the effectiveness of the collaboration between the general practitioners (GPs) and hospital physicians (HPs).

Aim: To identify possible difficulties and barriers to effective collaboration at the EOL between GPs and HPs from the perspective of Swiss GPs.

Design: Twenty-three qualitative semi-structured interviews with GPs were transcribed and analyzed using Mayring's content analysis. Interdisciplinary clinical-ethical analysis focused on the quality of GP and HP professional collaboration.

Results: GPs described the quality of collaboration with HPs as poor, in particular the lack of communication. There were two main issues to emerge. First, infrequent communication with HPs could negatively affect the care of the patient. Second, GPs were concerned with the lack of information about hospital care and involvement in medical decision making given their longstanding relationships with their patients.

Conclusions: The research showed that Swiss GPs were concerned with the quality of their patients' EOL care and the current level of GP/HP collaboration. GPs appealed for greater involvement with EOL care decisions based on their relationship of care and knowledge of patient preferences. These findings require further critical evaluation to explore the potential advantages for patient care. Existing evidence suggests that there are measurable health benefits from successful GP/HP collaborations. A change in the way GPs maintain involvement with their patients during hospitalizations would be warranted if it resulted in a better use of resources, better patient experiences, and better health outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication
  • General Practitioners
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Terminal Care*