End-of-life care pathways in acute and hospice care: an integrative review
Context Over the past decade, there has been widespread adoption of end-of-life care pathways as a tool to better manage care of the dying in a variety of care settings. The adoption of various end-of-life care pathways has occurred despite lack of robust evidence for their use. Objectives This integrative review identified published studies evaluating the impact of an end-of-life care pathway in the acute and hospice care setting from January 1996 to April 2010. Methods A search of the electronic databases Scopus and Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature as well as Medline and the World Wide Web were undertaken. This search used Medical Subject Headings key words including "end-of-life care," "dying," "palliative care," "pathways," "acute care," and "evaluation." Articles were reviewed by two authors using a critical appraisal tool. Results The search revealed 638 articles. Of these, 26 articles met the inclusion criteria for this integrative review. No randomized controlled trials were reported. The majority of these articles reported baseline and post implementation pathway chart audit data, whereas a smaller number were local, national, or international benchmarking studies. Most of the studies emerged from the United Kingdom, with a smaller number from the United States, The Netherlands, and Australia. Conclusion Existing data demonstrate the utility of the end-of-life pathway in improving care of the dying. The absence of randomized controlled trial data, however, precludes definitive recommendations and underscores the importance of ongoing research.