BACKGROUND: PaTz (palliative care at home) is a method to improve palliative care in the primary care setting in the Netherlands. PaTz has three basic principles: (1) local GPs and DNs meet at least six times per year to identify and discuss their patients with a life-threatening illness; (2) these meetings are supervised by a specialist palliative care professional; (3) groups use a palliative care register on which all identified patients are listed. Since the start in 2010, the number of PaTz-groups in the Netherlands has been growing consistently. Although the theory of all PaTz-groups is the same, the practical functioning of PaTz-groups may vary substantially, which may complicate further implementation of PaTz as well as interpretation of effect studies. This study aims to describe the variation in practice of PaTz-groups in the Netherlands.
METHOD: In this prospective observational study, ten PaTz-groups logged and described the activities in their meetings as well as the registered and discussed patients and topics of discussions in registration forms for a 1 year follow-up period. In addition, non-participatory observations were performed in all participating groups. Meeting and patient characteristics were analysed using descriptive statistics. Conventional content analysis was performed in the analysis of topic discussions.
RESULTS: While the basic principles of PaTz are found in almost every PaTz-group, there is considerable variation in the practice and content of the meetings of different PaTz-groups. Most groups spend little time on other topics than their patients, although the number of patients discussed in a single meeting varies considerably, as well as the time spent on an individual patient. Most registered patients were diagnosed with cancer and patient discussions mainly concerned current affairs and rarely concerned future issues.
CONCLUSION: The basic principles are the cornerstone of any PaTz-group. At the same time, the observed variation between PaTz-groups indicates that tailoring a PaTz-group to the needs of its participants is important and may enhance its sustainability. The flexibility of PaTz-groups may also provide opportunity to modify the content and tools used, and improve identification of palliative patients and advance care planning.