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Barriers and Approaches to the Successful Integration of Palliative Care and Oncology Practice

Jamie H. Von Roenn, Raymond Voltz, and Alain Serrie

As management of patients with cancer is evolving, an increased focus is being placed on individualized patient-centered care. Early integration of palliative care into the overall management of patients with cancer can help achieve this paradigm shift. Despite recommendations for earlier integration of palliative care by national and international societies, several barriers remain to achieving this goal. Survey studies have indicated a significant need for increased education regarding palliative care for both medical undergraduates and postgraduate physicians. Key issues in the early integration of palliative care include relationship-building across multiple health systems and specialties; development of a standardized definition of palliative care, making clear that it should be fully integrated with cancer-directed therapy; identification of physician and nonphysician champions; standardization of tools for patient assessment; education programs designed to meet the needs of health care professionals; and ongoing evaluation to assess program benefits and limitations.