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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
The pattern of disease, dying and death has changed dramatically in Australia over the last century. In Australia alone almost 160,000 people die every year. Of these at least 120,000 are expected deaths, meaning that access to palliative care could be of great benefit to both the individuals and their families. But ensuring access to quality palliative care for all who need it is not without its challenges. This is why a group of researchers sought funding from National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for the Centre of Research Excellence in End-of-Life Care (CRE-ELC).
Let’s be frank, end-of-life care can be tricky. Yes, dying is normal, but it hasn’t been a major focus in the acute hospital systems. Health care professionals working in acute hospitals can find themselves challenged by patients with end-of-life care needs. Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals can be in a situation where they do not know how to best respond to a patient with end-of-life needs. Appropriate end-of-life interventions can be missed.
With 52% of Australians dying in acute hospitals, end-of-life care is essential knowledge for all health care professionals.
The National Standards Assessment Program (NSAP) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and administered by Palliative Care Australia (PCA). NSAP has been running since 2008 and is a quality improvement program available for all specialist palliative care services in Australia.
NSAP aims to improve outcomes in palliative care and end-of-life care at a systematic level by providing a structured program for services. The structured 2-year NSAP cycle enables specialist palliative care services to enhance the quality of their governance and service delivery by:
“Palliative care is everyone’s business”
This was the theme of Palliative Care Australia’s advocacy in 2013. While this message aimed primarily to promote understanding at the wider community level, it is important for all health care providers to recognise the role they play in palliative care. All health disciplines, in specialist and non-specialist roles, in acute, community and aged care settings, cross paths with people affected by life-limiting illnesses. To provide care reflecting the values and principles of palliative care, the health workforce needs to be appropriately prepared and updated through postgraduate learning, professional experience, and ongoing professional development.
I’ve always been interested in how technology is evolving and how it is affecting our personal and our working worlds. Technology has changed and is continuing to change how we access information, how we communicate, what we create and what we leave behind. So preparing a module on digital dying for our MOOC, Dying2Learn, gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore a number of different aspects of death and dying that have been influenced or changed by digital technologies.
Some things are immediately obvious. Digital technologies have changed much of health and there are now amazing avenues for assessment, treatment and research that were not available a generation ago. If you are interested in the big picture approach to digital health, I’d suggest you take a look at Ste Davies’ presentation 10 digital health trends for the next 20 years or check out The Medical Futurist, who likes to pose grand challenges for the digital world and transforming health.