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Routine integration of palliative care: what will it take?

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Palliative care is an essential component of quality care in advanced illness

Palliative care has substantial benefits for patients with advanced disease, including improved symptom relief, quality of life, and communication around health care goals.1 These benefits extend to the patient’s family,2 improving caregiver quality of life and bereavement outcomes.3 Palliative care is also associated with cost savings with reduced hospitalisations and emergency department presentations, and greater likelihood of death at home.1,4

Despite these proven benefits, there is variability in access to palliative care and many patients are not referred in a timely manner. Although 62% of patients with metastatic lung cancer in Victoria are engaged with palliative care services by the time of death, most are referred in the final hospital admission, during which they die.5 These patterns are reflected nationally and internationally, with a median survival following admission to palliative care programs of 22–54 days,3,6 suggesting late referral.

The timing of referral to palliative care or adoption of a palliative…