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The effect and process evaluations of the national quality improvement programme for palliative care: the study protocol.

Raijmakers, N.J.H., Hofstede, J.M., Nijs, E.J.M. de, Deliens, L., Francke, A.L. The effect and process evaluations of the national quality improvement programme for palliative care: the study protocol. BMC Palliative Care: 2014, 13(5)
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Background: The nationwide integration of palliative care best practices into general care settings is challenging but important in improving the quality of palliative care. This is why the Dutch National Quality Improvement Programme for Palliative Care has recently been launched. This four-year programme consists of about 70 implementation trajectories of best practices. A large evaluation study has been set up to evaluate this national programme and separate implementation trajectories. Methods/design: This paper presents the protocol of the evaluation study consisting of a quantitative effect evaluation and a qualitative process evaluation. The effect evaluation has a pre-test post-test design, with measurements before implementation (month 0) and after implementation (month 9) of a best practice. Patients are eligible if they have a life expectancy of less than six months and/or if they are undergoing palliative treatment and provided they are physically and mentally capable of responding to questionnaires. Bereaved relatives are eligible if they have been involved in the care of a deceased patient who died after a sickbed between six weeks and six months ago. Three types of measurement instruments are used: (1) numerical rating scales for six symptoms (pain, fatigue, breathlessness, obstipation, sadness and anxiety), (2) the Consumer Quality Index Palliative Care - patient version and (3) the version for bereaved relatives. The process evaluation: The process evaluation consists of analysing implementation plans and reports of the implementation, and individual and group interviews with healthcare professionals. This will be done nine to eleven months after the start of the implementation of a best practice. Discussion: This mixed-method evaluation study gives more insight into the effects of the total programme and the separate implementation trajectories. However, evaluation of large quality improvement programmes is complicated due to changing, non-controlled environments. Therefore, it is important that an effect evaluation is combined with a process evaluation. (aut. ref. )