Queen’s University Researcher Seeks to Improve End of Life Care

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End of Life care

Dr. Daren Heyland, a researcher at Queen’s University and director of the Canadian Researchers at the End of Life Network (CARENET), has developed new quality measures he hopes will used to improve end-of-life care in Canada.

These new measures came about from earlier research that showed a significant proportion of Canadians are unhappy or dissatisfied with their end of life care.

“Inadequate or poor communication and decision-making at the end of life is a major source of dissatisfaction with end of life care,” said Dr. Heyland, in a university release. “It adds to the suffering that patients and families experience and has been identified as a high priority for improvement.”

A questionnaire was issued to patients and their family members at 12 hospitals by Dr. Heyland and his team, collecting their opinions about advance care planning and goals of care discussions.

The project’s goal was to use the survey feedback to begin monitoring and improving care by ensuring the system better meets their needs.

The survey results gathered from 297 patients and 209 families revealed quality of end of life communication and decision making available to patients is low overall.


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“Many Canadians are concerned about their dying experience, and desire the health care system to provide them with a good quality end of life experience,” said Dr. Heyland. “To date, leaders of our health care system have not developed or utilized quality measures to know the status of end of life care in Canada.”

He is now asking health care system leaders to use these quality measures when developing future initiatives aimed at improving care.

Dr. Heyland, an advocate for making the dying process a topic that can be discussed in a public way, believes widespread adoption of this framework could assist in process improvement for individual hospitals and improve the experience of patients who have serious illnesses, as well as their family members.

“As a society, we need to be both more accepting of and informed about the death and dying process,” said Dr. Heyland. “Many people think it is a private matter and don’t like talking about it but nothing could be more ‘public’ than when you are sick, going to a public hospital that is funded by public dollars that is staffed by strangers that will administer care that may or may not be right for you.”

The results of his work were recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.


Based on a release from the Queen’s Gazette | Photo: Pixabay.com (cc)