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Aust Health Rev. 2012 Feb;36(1):115-9. doi: 10.1071/AH10984.

Palliative care case conferencing involving general practice: an argument for a facilitated standard process.

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The University of Newcastle, Ourimbah, NSW 2258, Australia.



To discuss the results of a qualitative analysis of the group dynamics of General Practitioner (GP)-led case conferences for palliative care patients, where the GP becomes the care coordinator. Two outcomes are sought: (1) raise the understanding of this type of case conferencing for palliative care patients; and (2) recommend improvements to this process that will positively affect its efficacy.


Original data is the qualitative component of quantitative and qualitative study of 17 GP-led case conferences for palliative care patients. Data were analysed using Carney's Ladder of Analytical Abstraction.


Analysis produced four persistent themes: ambiguity of purpose; ambiguity of role; lack of information; and involvement of multiple interconnected and dynamic groups. These themes are a natural result of the case conferencing process that occurred during the study.


Case conferences were inherently uncertain and complex. Complexity results from the range of people and groups interacting with the patient before the case conference who do not attend the conference. Uncertainty results from a lack of direction, leadership and agreed outcomes against which the conference can be structured and measured. A standard process facilitated by someone other than the GP and containing necessary information would offer a better chance of optimising this process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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