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Palliat Med. 2013 Sep;27(8):747-56. doi: 10.1177/0269216312469263. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

The nature of, and reasons for, 'inappropriate' hospitalisations among patients with palliative care needs: a qualitative exploration of the views of generalist palliative care providers.

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School of Nursing, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



Recent studies have concluded that there is significant potential to reduce the extent of 'inappropriate' hospitalisations among patients with palliative care needs. However, the nature of, and reasons for, inappropriate hospitalisations within a palliative care context is under-explored.


To explore the opinions of 'generalist' palliative care providers regarding the nature of, and reasons for, inappropriate admissions among hospital inpatients with palliative care needs.


Qualitative study with data collected via individual interviews and focus groups.


Participants (n = 41) comprised 'generalist' palliative care providers working in acute hospital and community settings.


One District Health Board in an urban area of New Zealand.


The majority of participants discussed 'appropriateness' in relation to their own understanding of a good death, which typically involved care being delivered in a 'homely' environment, from known people. Differing attitudes among cultural groups were also evident. The following reasons for inappropriate admissions were identified: family carers being unable to cope, the 'rescue culture' of modern medicine, the financing and availability of community services and practice within aged residential care.


On the basis of our findings, we recommend a shift to the term 'potentially avoidable' admission rather than 'inappropriate admission'. We also identify an urgent need for debate regarding the role of the acute hospital within a palliative care context. Interventions to reduce hospital admissions within this population must target societal understandings of death and dying within the context of medicalisation, as well as take into account cultural and ethnic diversity in attitudes, if they are to be successful.


Hospitalisation; culture; hospitals; palliative care; terminal care

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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