We were delighted to work in partnership with Hospice UK, Kings College London, Cicely Saunders International, NHS England, Public Health England and St Christopher’s Hospice to host a one day conference on the application of outcome measures in palliative care. The conference was extremely insightful and showcased inspiring presentations around the benefits and power of utilising outcome measures in palliative care settings, as well as providing practical solutions and considering future challenges. Commissioners and specialist palliative and end of life care providers attended from across England and Northern Ireland, and there was a great sense of excitement from attendees about the positive impact outcome measures could make to both patients and services providers and a real desire to implement them within their own organisations.
Embedding patient reported outcome measures into clinical practice is extremely important and they can improve both end of life care and patient outcomes, as well as facilitating the delivery of patient-centred care. They provide a robust mechanism to assess and validate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of services and can guide service improvement and development, establish a case mix, inform staff resourcing, enhance staff development and guide research strategies. The results can also be used by hospices to inform business intelligence and to influence stakeholders and commissioners by providing an evidence base to demonstrate the value of their services and their contribution to the local health economy. Going forward they could also be used to establish a benchmarking system that would enable meaningful comparison of similar organisations nationally.
There was much discussion around the fact that outcome measures can be used to deliver efficient holistic care that ensures consistency and equity for all patients across all services, by developing a structured framework for conducting multi-disciplinary team meetings, ward rounds and handovers. They can also improve staff communication through the development of a common language.
Speakers shared their personal experiences and offered practical advice on how to effectively incorporate outcome measures into practice. It was felt by all that a multi-faceted approach was essential, and investment in both staff and robust information technology systems was essential to incorporate outcome measures into clinical practice with maximum effect and ensure meaningful information is generated.
The importance of engagement of staff at all levels including Executives, boards and trustees was highlighted and the need to educate them on the use and benefits of outcome measures, as well as sharing results with them to demonstrate their impact. Implementing champions to drive the initiative forward and change staff cultures and utilising Healthcare Assistants to collect information are essential.
It was clear that in order to encourage national engagement further work is needed to increase awareness to both commissioners and service providers on the importance and power of incorporating outcome measures into clinical practice in end of life care. Additionally, the development of resources and training to support organisations to incorporate them into practice and utilising the intelligence generated was thought to be equally as important.
The conference highlighted that the development of a co-commissioning relationship focusing on the needs of a shared population that ensures better outcomes for beneficiaries is essential. Commissioners, hospices and the NHS need to work together, share good practices and resources and develop more integrated working. The use of a standard IT system would also facilitate integration of outcome measures and sharing of information.
The conference provided a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the impact and power of utilizing outcome measures in palliative care settings and together through integration, collaboration and communication we have the potential to create something magnificent.
Judith Park and Dr Sam Kyeremateng
Click here to download the videos and presentations from the conference.