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Palliative care quality indicators in Italy. What do we evaluate?

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In recent years, the number of palliative service providers has increased significantly. This expansion necessitates an evaluation in order to provide the basis for quality improvement of the care. Policymakers, managers of palliative care programs, and others committed to the improvement of end-of-life care need methods and criteria to measure and evaluate the care delivered. As quality measurement is expensive and difficult to undertake, it is fundamental that quality measures evaluate the right things. Quality evaluation in Italy is supported by health authorities who have developed some indicators of palliative care. The aims of this study were to give an overview of these indicators.


We analyzed all palliative care indicators developed by Italian national authorities from 2000 to the present. These indicators have been divided into three different levels of analysis (structure, process, and outcome). Subsequently, two reviewers have independently compared their degree of concordance with domains, and guidelines developed by the NCP for palliative care and after careful discussion an expert panel has elaborated a final consensus document.


Most of the quality indicators analyzed deal with the structure and process of palliative care, however they miss outcomes and do not cover domains mainly concerned with spiritual, ethical, cultural, or existential aspects of care.


More attention should be paid to the development of outcome indicators of palliative care. The attempt to identify a group of indicators which cover every domain of palliative care represents a challenge for the future in terms of finding new cognitive models more oriented toward subjectivity.

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Correspondence to Daniela D’Angelo.

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D’Angelo, D., Mastroianni, C., Vellone, E. et al. Palliative care quality indicators in Italy. What do we evaluate?. Support Care Cancer 20, 1983–1989 (2012).

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