Review Article| Volume 61, ISSUE 3, P585-612, March 2021

Palliative Care in the Greater China Region: A Systematic Review of Needs, Models, and Outcomes

  • Huei Chung
    Department of Pharmacy, Zhongxiao Branch, Taipei City Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Richard Harding
    Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care, King's College London, London, UK
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  • Ping Guo
    Address correspondence to: Ping Guo, PhD, School of Nursing, Institute of Clinical Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.
    Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care, King's College London, London, UK

    School of Nursing, Institute of Clinical Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
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      There is rapidly increasing need for palliative care in Greater China because of rapidly aging populations.


      This study aimed to systematically review and appraise evidence for palliative care needs, models of care, interventions, and outcomes in Greater China.


      Four databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO) were searched, with hand searching of local journals and databases. Narrative synthesis was applied to the qualitative and quantitative evidence.


      Nineteen qualitative studies and 47 quantitative studies were retained. With respect to care needs, nine themes were synthesized: pain control, reduced aggressive end-of-life care, truth telling, physical, emotional, and spiritual supports, and achieving preferred place of care/death. Informal caregivers expressed their needs for education and burden reduction. Health care professionals called for training and national policy support. Twenty-four studies evaluated interventions, mostly among patients with advanced cancer. Positive effects were suggested for improvements in quality of life, pain, anxiety and depression, readmission rate, and costs. Models of care evaluated were mostly specialist palliative care delivered in various settings (hospitals, residential care, and home). Outcome measures used were grouped into six categories of construct: quality of life, pain, physical assessment, psychospiritual assessment, quality of care, and implementation assessment. Limited rigorous randomized controlled trials are available to document intervention outcomes, and some problems (such as high attrition rates) reduced the strength of the evidence.


      Palliative care services within Greater China should pay more attention to management of nonmalignant disease and to integration into primary services. Policy support is key to establishing culturally appropriate person-centered services.

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