primary palliative care; family caregivers; coordination; health care professionals; Public Health; collaboration; palliative care networks
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Palliative care networks constitute the smallest unit of local and regional palliative care supply. They are based on the collaboration and coordination of interdependent professional subsystems, including profession¬als in and outside of service units and institutions. Up till now, neither collaboration of heath care providers nor current approaches to coordinate palliative care in the community are systematically explored in Switzerland. Collaborative practices between health care professional and the steering and control of collaborative practices seem widely based on individual strategies and informality, what jeopardizes the quality of care and effectivity of palliative care supply. Only first initiatives and approaches of collaboration and management exist in the Swiss context of community-based palliative care. More information and knowledge about collaboration and coordination of health care professionals in the field of primary palliative care (PPC) is needed, in order to avoid negative consequences, such as low accessibility of palliative care for all people or unnecessary hospital admissions.The aim of this study is twofold: Firstly, it strives for a deeper understanding of collaboration and coordination within PPC as well as between PPC, specialized palliative care (SPC) and further support services. Secondly, we aim on analyzing and evaluating collaboration and coordination in community based palliative care in Switzerland, also with respect to their structural embeddedness and to perceived patient outcomes. The findings of this study shall contribute to the development of guidelines for collaboration/coordination in PPC as well as to the elaboration and implementation of standards and models for integrated PPC-services on regional level. The knowledge gained in this project will also serve to strengthen the role health care providers in PPC, by informing education and training. To achieve its objectives the study is based on a mixed-method-approach: In a first step, document analysis and qualitative interviews with health care professionals in PPC/SPC and family caregivers in four selected cantons/regions (presumably BS, LU, VD, TI) will be conducted, in order to allow an in-depth analysis of collaboration/coordination in different contexts of palliative care supply. With respect to outcomes family caregivers' perspective of collaborative practice and coordination of palliative care in the community shall be elicited in the qualitative part of the study. In a second step a cross-cantonal survey on collaboration and coordination is planned, which allows for a comparison of different regional, cantonal, urban and rural settings. Findings from both empirical steps will be triangulated and merged in order to identify facilitators and barriers, as well as different approaches of integrated palliative care services in the community and challenges of organizing and managing collaboration of health care providers. The theoretical perspective and empirical approach of this study will provide for highly innovative answers on essential questions to current health science research in the area of application, notably a description and analysis of inter-professional collaboration between health providers in the field of PPC and at the interface to SPC. For cantonal health departments, health care providers and units, nursing homes, leagues and patient organizations, managers of hospitals and hospital units, and health insurances the study provides important information and key instructions for the promotion and development of palliative care networks on regional and cantonal level and it informs about necessary staff, education and further resources.