Clinical Care Conditions and Needs of Palliative Care Patients from Five Italian Regions: Preliminary Data of the DEMETRA Project

Healthcare (Basel). 2020 Jul 20;8(3):221. doi: 10.3390/healthcare8030221.


In order to plan the right palliative care for patients and their families, it is essential to have detailed information about patients' needs. To gain insight into these needs, we analyzed five Italian local palliative care networks and assessed the clinical care conditions of patients facing the complexities of advanced and chronic disease. A longitudinal, observational, noninterventional study was carried out in five Italian regions from May 2017 to November 2018. Patients who accessed the palliative care networks were monitored for 12 months. Sociodemographic, clinical, and symptom information was collected with several tools, including the Necesidades Paliativas CCOMS-ICO (NECPAL) tool, the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS), and interRAI Palliative Care (interRAI-PC). There were 1013 patients in the study. The majority (51.7%) were recruited at home palliative care units. Cancer was the most frequent diagnosis (85.4%), and most patients had at least one comorbidity (58.8%). Cancer patients reported emotional stress with severe symptoms (38.7% vs. 24.3% in noncancer patients; p = 0.001) and were less likely to have clinical frailty (13.3% vs. 43.9%; p < 0.001). Our study confirms that many patients face the last few months of life with comorbidities or extreme frailty. This study contributes to increasing the general knowledge on palliative care needs in a high-income country.

Keywords: adult; assessment of healthcare needs; emotional; frail older; network; palliative care; stress.