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Open Access Research article

End-of-life care in Germany: Study design, methods and first results of the EPACS study (Establishment of Hospice and Palliative Care Services in Germany)

Luis Carlos Escobar Pinzón1*, Eva Münster1, Sabine Fischbeck2, Michael Unrath1, Matthias Claus1, Tanja Martini1 and Martin Weber3

Author Affiliations

1 University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Obere Zahlbacher Straße 67, 55131 Mainz, Germany

2 University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Clinic of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, Saarstraße 21, 55099 Mainz, Germany

3 University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Interdisciplinary Palliative Care Unit, Langenbeckstraße 1, 55131 Mainz, Germany

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BMC Palliative Care 2010, 9:16  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-9-16

Published: 30 July 2010

Abstract

Background

In order to tackle the deficits in the provision of palliative home care, profound structural changes in the outpatient sector were introduced by law in Germany in 2007. The EPACS study was carried out (Research Accompanying the Establishment of Hospice and Palliative Care Services in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany) to document the quality of inpatient and outpatient end-of-life care in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, before the implementation of these changes. With this article we focus on the study design and methods of the EPACS-Study. We further report first results regarding several aspects of outpatient end-of-life care.

Methods

The cross-sectional survey was based on a random sample of 5000 inhabitants of Rhineland-Palatinate that had died from May 25 until August 24 of the year 2008. Relatives of these randomly drawn deceased persons were interviewed by means of a written survey.

Results

The overall response proportion considering only those questionnaires that actually were delivered (n = 3833) was 36.0%. Factors influencing participation were age, sex, and marital status. 355 (25.8%) deceased persons had used professional home care in the four weeks prior to their death, but only very few persons had used a specialised palliative home care service (n = 30; 8.5%). There was a clear gap between the need for specialised outpatient care and the actual utilisation of these services.

Conclusions

Satisfaction with professional home care was relatively high, but physicians were rated less favourable than nurses. There were deficits especially with respect to physicians' communicative and supportive skills. Further analyses are necessary to provide more detailed information about quality of care in different care settings and for distinct groups. Predictors of good care, as well as obstacles to it, must be further investigated. In the long run, a follow-up survey must be conducted to compare quality of home care before and after the structural changes in Germany.