Background: Public health palliative care interventions are increasingly implemented, with growing recognition of the importance of building evidence to support their utility in end-of-life care. Previous efforts have focused on community outcomes. Aim: To examine the impact of public health palliative care on patterns of health service use at the end of life (primary) and explore which outcomes are being measured within this field of research (secondary). Design: Systematic review of studies reporting qualitative and quantitative data, analysed with a narrative synthesis method. Data sources: A systematic review conducted and reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta Analyses guideline was undertaken using six electronic databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, INFORMIT and COCHRANE) up to February 2020. Results: Searches yielded 2622 unique titles screened for eligibility, resulting in 35 studies measuring outcomes from a public health palliative care approach. Five (14%) studies assessed health system outcomes, and three reported some mixed evidence of impact, including reduced hospital emergency admissions, hospital bed days, hospital costs and increased home deaths. Most studies (86%) instead reported on conceptual (49%), knowledge (40%), programme participation (37%) and/or individual health outcomes (29%). Conclusion: The impact of public health palliative care is an evolving area of empirical inquiry with currently only limited evidence that it improves healthcare utilisation outcomes at the end of life, and limited focus on measurement of these outcomes. Further empirical studies are needed to support the reorientation of health services, which remains an important component in realising ‘whole of system change’ to bring about quality end-of-life care for all.
- health system outcomes
- narrative synthesis
- Public health palliative care
- systematic review