Measuring effectiveness in community-based palliative care programs: A systematic review

Author ORCID Identifier

M. Courtney Hughes: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8699-5701

Publication Title

Social Science and Medicine





Document Type



Community-based palliative care (CBPC) serves seriously ill individuals by integrating care for symptom and stress relief with local health care systems. This review provides the first systematic review of the literature to date on the effectiveness of CBPC programs and includes their measures of success, challenges faced, and characteristics of the populations served. A systematic review on CBPC program effectiveness was conducted across four electronic databases for academic articles published through August 2021. PRISMA reporting guidelines were followed throughout this review, study quality was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool, and results were summarized in a narrative synthesis. The 61 included articles were separated into quantitative and qualitative studies, with eight having mixed methods and belonging to both groups. Overall, the quantitative articles indicate that CBPC programs increase the likelihood that seriously ill patients in their community have their place of death as home, fewer hospitalizations, fewer emergency department visits, decreased hospital length of stays, improved quality of life, and lower health care costs. There was, however, also evidence showing certain programs were unsuccessful in improving the stated outcomes. The qualitative studies reported positive findings and highlighted areas for future program improvement, like training staff and volunteers in communication and other skills. There was a lack of quantitative and qualitative studies investigating CBPC programs in low-income and lower-middle-income countries. In addition, there is a paucity of research examining CBPC program impact on vulnerable and key populations across the globe. Although findings generally support the notion that CBPC programs are a cost-effective way to improve end-of-life quality, further research is needed examining the characteristics of the more successful programs. Findings also suggest the need for collaboration between researchers, health systems, and governments to design and implement effective CBPC programs and to share best practices across communities worldwide.

Publication Date




PubMed ID



Community-based palliative care, Effectiveness, End-of-life care, Health outcomes, Hospice, Qualitative, Quantitative, Systematic review


School of Health Studies