Impact: Providing evidence for service improvements for better palliative care

The demand for palliative care in Australia is increasing every year as more people live longer with more chronic diseases.

To deliver effective care with limited resources, it is essential that services have robust measures of patient outcomes and can use this information to refine models of care.

The Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration (PCOC) is a world-leading quality improvement initiative that shows services what they are doing well - and what they could do better.

PCOC is based at UOW’s Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI), and funded by the Australian Government.

Around 115 services voluntarily measure patient outcomes using the PCOC standardised tools. AHSRI researchers compile and analyse the data. Every six months, PCOC staff visit each service and report their outcomes, comparing them with other, similar services and highlighting areas for improvement.

Representatives from the services gather at workshops to share this information and discuss ideas for changing practices to improve specific outcomes.

Real improvements to service provision have resulted from the work of PCOC. One measure of quality is how quickly services respond when patients’ symptoms change or worsen. When this happens, a new plan of care is created and tested, ideally within three days.

By 2013, 80 per cent of participating services were able to resolve crisis situations quickly for patients in hospital, compared with 62 per cent in 2011, and 70 per cent achieved this benchmark for patients living in the community, compared to 53 per cent in 2011.

PCOC has also helped guide services in their efforts to reduce patients’ physical symptoms and psychological distress.

Data from 30 services that took part in PCOC continuously between January 2009 and December 2011 demonstrate statistically significant reductions in all patient- and clinician-reported symptoms (except pain) during this period.

AHSRI Director, Professor Kathy Eagar, is one of four chief investigators in PCOC, along with Professor David Currow of Flinders University, Professor Patsy Yates of Queensland University of Technology, and Assistant Professor Claire Johnson of University of Western Australia. 

    Professor Kathy Eagar
    Linda Foskett
    Professor David Currow
    Janet Taylor
    Professor Patsy Yates
    Clare Christiansen
    Lynda Carnew
    A/Professor Claire Johnson
    Karen Quinsey
    Sabina Clapham
    Sam Allingham
    Alanna Holloway
    Sonia Bird
    Jane Connolly
    Gaye Bishop
    Felicity Burns
    Tanya Pidgeon