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News Release - Queen's researcher seeks to improve end of life care in Canada

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Queen’s University researcher Dr. Daren Heyland has developed new quality measures he hopes will used to improve end-of-life care in Canada. The results of his work was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last week.

The new quality indicators are in response to prior research showing 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,” says Dr. Heyland, who is the director of the Canadian Researchers at the End of Life Network (CARENET). “It adds to the suffering that patients and families experience and has been identified as a high priority for improvement.”

Dr. Heyland and his research team administered a questionnaire to patients and their family members in 12 hospitals and asked them about advance care planning and goals of care discussions. The impetus for the project was to collect information from patients and their families that can be used to begin to monitor and improve care by ensuring the system better meets their needs. Based on the results gathered from 297 patients and 209 families, it was determined quality of end of life communication and decision making afforded patients is low overall.  

“Many Canadians ae concerned about their dying experience, and desire the health care system to provide them with a good quality end of life experience,” says 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.”

Dr. Heyland is now asking health care system leaders to use these quality measures to guide future initiatives to improve care.

“Widespread adoption of this quality indicator framework could assist in process improvement for individual hospitals and improve the experience of patients who have serious illnesses, and that of their family members,” says Dr. Heyland, who is pushing to make the dying process something that is discussed in a public way.

“As a society, we need to be both more accepting of and informed about the death and dying process. 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.”

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Anne Craig, Media Relations Officer

613-533-2877 or anne.craig@queensu.ca

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