A Systematic Review of Palliative Care Intervention Outcomes and Outcome Measures in Low-Resource Countries

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2018 May;55(5):1382-1397.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2017.12.487. Epub 2018 Jan 3.


Context: To meet the growing need for palliative care in low-resource countries, palliative care programs should be evidence based and contextually appropriate. This study was conducted to synthesize the current evidence to guide future programmatic and research efforts.

Objectives: This systematic review evaluated palliative care outcome measures, outcomes, and interventions in low-resource countries.

Methods: After title searches, abstracts and full-text articles were screened for inclusion. Data were extracted to report on intervention models, outcome measures used, and intervention outcomes.

Results: Eighteen papers were reviewed, reporting on interventions conducted across nine low-resource countries. These interventions evaluated home-based palliative care models; a community-managed model; palliative care integrated with hospitals, hospices, or HIV clinics; and models focused on patients' self-management. Three studies were randomized controlled trials. Other studies used nonrandomized trials, cohort studies, mixed methods, pre-post test evaluation, cost-accounting evaluation, and cross-sectional surveys. Thirteen studies measured physical outcomes, 10 using multidimensional instruments. Nine studies measured psychological outcomes, eight using multidimensional instruments. Nine studies measured social outcomes, seven using multidimensional instruments. Nine studies measured outcomes across multiple domains. Across outcomes evaluated, results were reported in the direction of benefit associated with palliative care interventions.

Conclusion: Many palliative care intervention models exist to serve patients in low-resource countries. Yet, limited high-quality evidence from low-resource countries is available to document intervention outcomes. Rigorous experimental studies and greater measurement of multidimensional aspects of palliative care are needed to advance the science of palliative care in low-resource settings.

Keywords: Palliative care; low-resource countries; palliative care interventions; palliative care measures; palliative care outcomes; systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Palliative Care* / economics
  • Palliative Care* / methods
  • Poverty