Barriers and facilitators of timely recognition of palliative care needs by the family physician: a qualitative study

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Background: Patients with life-threatening diseases experience various unmet palliative care needs during their disease course. To ensure the best possible quality of life for these patients, their palliative care needs should be recognized and solved timely. Since family physicians play a central role in facilitating coordination and continuity of care they play a pivotal role in the recognition of palliative care needs. Exploring barriers and facilitators in primary practice will help to improve the quality of care and life for these patients.
Aim: Using perspectives of family physicians, nurses and patients we explored barriers and facilitators in timely recognizing palliative care needs of patients with life-threatening diseases.
Methods: We performed 18 semi structured interviews with patients with cancer, organ failure or dementia, 4 focus groups with family physicians and 2 focus groups with community nurses. All data were recorded, transcribed and thematic analysis of the data set was performed using NVIVO10.
Findings: Several barriers emerging in different main actors were identified, of which the most important are that: (1) the physician focuses mainly on acute and physical needs and they lack time to detect all the needs (2) other care givers do not always transfer information about their patients' care needs to the family physician and (3) patients often do not contact their physician in certain phases of the disease and tend to conceal their needs to the physician. Pro-active communication (e.g. an exchange information book), regular contact and a good relationship with all actors seem to facilitate the recognition of care needs by the physician.
Conclusion: Palliative care involves multiple actors and barriers for recognizing care needs can be found in all of them. These findings are a basis to recommend strategies for family physicians and other care givers to handle the barriers in recognizing various palliative care needs in their patients
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-180
Number of pages1
JournalEuropean Journal of Palliative Care
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • palliative care
  • family physician
  • care needs


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