Proposal for improving access to palliative care by enhancing primary care services in an upper middle-income country

28 Feb 2023
Malar Velli Segarmurthy, Richard Boon-Leong Lim, Salimah Othman, Sri Wahyu Taher, Harenthri Devy, Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy

Background: Primary care doctors play an important role in providing palliative care as they are often the first point of contact for most healthcare needs in the community. This mixed-method study aims to 1) determine the accessibility of palliative care services in Malaysia, an upper middle-income country with universal health coverage, 2) explore the knowledge, challenges and opportunities faced by primary care doctors in providing palliative care and 3) identify if minimum standards for palliative care service are clearly defined, available and achieved in primary care facilities.

Methods: Data on availability of palliative care services will be sourced from governmental and non-governmental databases and reports. Accessibility will be examined by estimating the distance, travel time and cost to the nearest facility offering palliative care services from various locations throughout Malaysia. In-depth interviews will be conducted with primary care doctors to explore their knowledge, challenges and opportunities in providing palliative care. Alongside, a survey will be conducted to evaluate whether components of palliative care services are available in primary care facilities using the Minimum Standard Tool for Palliative Care from India, which covers all the domains recommended by the World Health Organization. All findings will be inductively analysed and integrated, followed by a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis and a threats, opportunities, weaknesses and strength analysis with relevant stakeholders.

Expected results: The mapping study will provide empirical data on availability and accessibility of palliative care services in Malaysia. The qualitative inquiry will provide insights on the experiences and concerns of primary care physicians in providing palliative care in the community settings. The survey meanwhile will provide real-world data on availability of basic palliative care service components in the primary care facilities.

Expected conclusion: Findings will facilitate development of framework and policies aiming to optimise provision of sustainable palliative care services at the primary care level in local settings.

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