Family meetings in palliative care: are they effective?

Centre for Palliative Care Education and Research, St Vincent's, Victoria, Australia.
Palliative Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.61). 12/2008; 23(2):150-7. DOI:10.1177/0269216308099960
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Despite the promotion of family meetings as an essential tool for information sharing and planning in palliative care, minimal evidence exists to show their effectiveness. We sought to rectify this gap in evidence-based practice by evaluating recently developed clinical guidelines for facilitating family meetings. Palliative care nurses were trained to conduct family meetings using the guidelines. To assess the effectiveness of the guidelines, primary family carers who attended a family meeting completed a self-report instrument to measure unmet needs at three time periods: immediately before the meeting (T1), immediately after the meeting (T2) and two days after the meeting (T3). Phone interviews with carers were also conducted at T3. Patients, health professionals and family meeting facilitators were also invited to complete an evaluation form at T2. A focus group was conducted at the end of the project to gain reflections from the family meeting facilitators about their role, re-evaluate the family meeting clinical guidelines and discuss barriers and facilitators for ongoing implementation. Twenty family meetings were conducted at St Vincent's Hospital (Melbourne, Australia). A total of 42 participants were involved, including 20 family carers, 4 patients and 18 health professionals. Family carers reported a statistically significant increase in having their care needs met, from T1 to T2, which was maintained at T3; they also reported that the meetings were useful. Health professionals and patients advised that the meetings were well facilitated. The results from this pilot study indicate that family meetings, conducted using specific clinical practice guidelines, were useful and effective. However, more research is required to confirm these findings. Strategies for implementation and further research are outlined.

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