The primary objective of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from an illness in an advanced phase through control of symptoms, organisation of practical support involving a coordinated interdisciplinary care network, and the central emphasis given to listening and communication.
In a context of limited financial resources, it is also essential to analyse the costs related to palliative care. A number of studies, as well as a literature review, have shown that palliative care is cost-effective. It not only allows the quality of care and patient satisfaction to be improved, but also reduces healthcare costs.
The factors involved are a reduction in the length of hospital stay, a reduction in the rate of hospital readmission and transfer to intensive care units, a decrease in invasive procedures at the end of life, and in increase in the rate of deaths at home in the familiar environment of the patient.
At present, we note that a great deal of resources have been devoted to the struggle to preserve life, and proportionally little to the quality of life. Thus, in Belgium the standard growth rate for healthcare in general is 4% and that for palliative care, 2%. A reallocation of resources appears justified, even in a period of budgetary restrictions, inasmuch as palliative care is one of the rare areas where there is an alignment between the priorities and needs of patients and the priorities and needs of healthcare !
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