Technology will be an increasingly important element in delivering end-of-life care at home, according to an analysis which found the UK has one of the best systems for palliative care in the world.
Researchers from the Economist Intelligence Unit developed a “quality of death” index to rate end-of-life care services across 40 countries.
The UK was the top performer and India ranked last; although the unit found many rich nations also lagged behind including Denmark (22nd), Italy (24th) and South Korea (32nd).
The researchers said patients at the end of life often wish to die at home and identified technology as being of key importance in enabling them to do this.
For example, the paper says that remote monitoring devices that stream data into electronic patient records would give doctors more timely feedback on patients’ conditions.
It argues that data could also be streamed into personal health record platforms such as Google Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault
The researchers reported that their interviewees saw “tremendous potential” in such systems for end-of-life care and believed they could also draw in family members.
In some of the world’s poorest areas, the researchers said mobile phones could also help connect people with end-of-life care. They cited Hospice Africa, which offers a 24-hour call back service to anyone who contacts it by phone.
In Taiwan, videophones and web-enabled mobile phones are also used to connect patients with their hospice doctors.
The analysis said drug availability was the most important practical issue in palliative care.
It said state funding of end-of-life care was also limited but claimed that more palliative care could mean less health spending by reducing costs associated with hospital stays and emergency admissions.
David Praill, chief executive of Herlp the Hospices, said the results of the analysis were “heartening” for the UK but there was still more to do.
He added: “Palliative care is a human right and in the UK we still have a lot of work to do to make sure that everyone is supported at the end of life, irrespective of where they choose to be cared for, where they live or what conditions they have.
"Our ageing population means more people will be dying and they will be dying with more complex needs.
"Therefore, demand for hospice and palliative care services are set to increase, so it is vital we have a fair and sustainable system of funding that meets the needs of people at the most vulnerable time of their lives."