Palliative Care for Refugees and Asylees: A Systematic Review and Single-Institution Analysis of Healthcare Utilization




Tao, Zoe Renee

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BACKGROUND: Palliative care addresses physical, psychosocial, and spiritual dimensions of suffering. Palliative care may have significant impact for populations such as refugees and asylees, who flee conflict and persecution and may have a high burden of chronic and life-limiting illness. OBJECTIVES: The goal of this systematic review was to synthesize existing observational studies on palliative care for refugees and asylees. Additionally, the goal of the accompanying single-institution review was to analyze healthcare access and utilization in a safety net refugee outreach clinic. METHODS: A systematic review was undertaken using PRISMA guidelines. Six full-length articles were selected for review. National Consensus Project palliative care domains were utilized for thematic analysis. A retrospective chart review was undertaken for refugee patients establishing care between 2014-2016. Data was extracted on demographics, insurance status, and outpatient clinic and emergency department (ED) visits. RESULTS: Articles selected for systematic review covered heterogeneous research methodology and refugee populations, with all investigators originating from high-income nations. Identified Challenges and Practices to palliative care encompassed all NCP domains, and Recommendations for palliative care for refugees and asylees encompassed all but the Ethical and Legal aspects of care. In our single-institution review, we found that most refugee patients were able to maintain healthcare insurance and attended follow-up primary care visits, with few relying on the ED for primary care. CONCLUSIONS: Greater attention and funding should be allocated to lower-income nations for addressing refugee palliative care needs. Increased focus should be given to studying ethical, legal, and systemic barriers to care. Outpatient care in safety net hospitals may be an important means of addressing refugee and asylee palliative care in well-resourced settings.

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