Global palliative care and cross-national comparison: How is palliative care development assessed?
Background: Indicators assessing national-level palliative care (PC) development used for cross-national comparison depict progress on this field. There is current interest on its inclusion in global monitoring frameworks. Objective: Identify and conceptualize those most frequently used for international PC development reporting. Design: Systematic review. Data Sources: PubMed, CINAHL, Google Scholar, and Google targeting national-level development indicators used for cross-national comparison. Additional search requesting experts' suggestions on key studies and "snow-balling" on reference section of all included studies. Identified indicators were listed and categorized in dimensions: services, use of medicines, policy, and education. Results: Fifty-four studies were included. Development has been evaluated using 480 different formulations of 165 indicators, 38 were highly reported. Thirty-two fell into proposed dimensions, 11 for use of medicines, 9 for policy, 7 for services, and 5 for education. Six into complementary dimensions: research, professional activity, and international cooperation. Six were the most frequently used indicators: number of PC services per population (40 reports), existence of PC national plan, strategy, or program (25), existence of palliative medicine specialization (22), availability and allocation of funds for PC (13), medical schools, including PC, in undergraduate curricula (13), and total use of opioids-morphine equivalents (11). Conclusion: There is a clear pattern for national-level PC development evaluation repeatedly using a small number of indicators. Indicators addressing generalistic provision, integration into health systems, and specific fields such as pediatric lack. This study invites international discussion on a global consensus on PC-development assessment.