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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 release of the Guidelines for a Palliative Approach in Residential Aged Care (APRAC) and the Guidelines for a Palliative Approach for Aged Care in the Community Setting (COMPAC) were a significant advance in recognising and responding to changing population demography in Australia. They aimed to support the provision of palliative care for older people living in the community or in residential aged care by identifying and evaluating the evidence for care to promote quality of life for older Australians who have a life-limiting illness or who are becoming progressively frailer during old age. The two sets of guidelines were important landmarks nationally and internationally.
New healthcare research is being produced at an exponential rate and the challenges for clinicians to keep abreast of it are well documented. Perhaps less frequently discussed is the question of what happens once relevant evidence has been identified. How does it move from the page to have a tangible influence on patient care or health system outcomes?
Despite the abundance of research evidence available, we know that it is often slow to reach those that need it, and even slower to be implemented. An oft cited time lag is a staggering 17 years! The implication is that patients may be receiving ineffectual treatments, out of step with best practice recommendation, in the meantime. This must inevitably impact on patient safety, quality improvement processes, and healthcare costs across the sector.
Health professionals can find it difficult to manage the growing evidence relevant to the care of patients with palliative care needs. While CareSearch provides access to a wide variety of palliative care evidence and resources, knowing which one to use can be tricky. Recognising when it might be worthwhile looking for additional evidence is also important. These were the original reasons why we introduced My Learning, a web-based learning initiative, in 2012. Educational modules in My Learning introduced health professionals to resources in CareSearch and showed how they could help in clinical care and decision making. Since then, each month, around 100 people complete the learning modules.
The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature (GL '99) in Washington, DC, in October 1999 defined grey literature as ‘that which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers’.
Grey literature can include material that is not conventionally published and may be hard to find and sometimes ephemeral. It is not indexed formally in major databases and requires general web searching using a search engine such as Google. It can include such items as government reports and documents, state-of-the art reports, market research reports, theses, conference papers, technical specifications, and standards.