A cross-sectional study on the attitudes and perceptions of outpatients towards palliative care at the Hong Kong Queen Mary Hospital Hospice Centre

Margaret Kay Ho, Crystal Cheuk Yiu Hsue, Cheng Heng Nicholas Lai, Kwun Ting Chan, Cheuk Nam Cheng, Chun Fung Chow, Ka Ho Lui, Shireen Rashed, Elaine Wong, Wai Yan Yu, Vanessa H. M. Cheung, Steven W. K. Siu, Mei-Ling Ho, Kwok-Keung Yuen, Amy Tien Yee Chang


Background: Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for patients and their families, by helping them to cope with problems associated with illness. It targets four aspects of health: physical, psychological, social, and spiritual. Most of the current literature on palliative care is limited to the perspectives of health professionals. This study aims to investigate the views of outpatients receiving palliative care at the Hong Kong Queen Mary Hospital Hospice Centre (HKQMHHC), which offers palliative care services to cancer patients.
Methods: This observational cross-sectional study was performed with the completion of a single paper- based original questionnaire over 18 afternoon clinic sessions on Thursdays and Fridays from December 2017 to February 2018 at the HKQMHHC. The questionnaire was designed to examine patients’ perspectives; in particular, the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) was used to assess their symptoms. Descriptive and univariate analyses were performed.
Results: One hundred patients attending HKQMHHC were included in the study. The study revealed that all the mean scores for aspects of care offered at the centre were above 8, on a scale of 0–10 with 0 being extremely inadequate and 10 being extremely adequate. Each respondent was able to identify an average of 1.82 of the 4 aspects of palliative care. Eighty-seven percent of respondents perceived the physical aspect of this care to be of the highest priority. A negative correlation (P<0.05) was found between the extent of symptoms experienced by the patient and their satisfaction towards the services offered.
Conclusions: Patients generally held very positive attitudes, reflecting that the services sufficiently met their needs. However, owing to their rather limited knowledge, this may have restricted their perspectives to a largely superficial level, as many discerned palliative care to be simply targeting physical health with medical consultations. Considering the implications of the results, the addition of accessibility and education components to Hong Kong’s current system of palliative care is crucial in the betterment of such services for patients. There should also be increased local coverage of palliative care services to facilitate convenience of access. With reference to the World Health Organisation (WHO) palliative care model, the inclusion of a continued spectrum of services, such as physical and mental health activities and psychosocial counselling, should be reinforced throughout the progression of disease so as to better help patients to cope with illness. The discovery of the relationship between extent of symptoms experienced and patients’ satisfaction towards services provided is a new direction for further study.