Palliative care (PC) that has evolved from a focus on end-of-life care to an expanded form of holistic care at an early stage for patients with serious illnesses and their families is commonly referred to as nonhospice PC (or early PC). Patients with end-stage liver disease (ESLD) suffer from a high symptom burden and a deteriorated quality of life (QOL), with uncertain prognosis and limited treatment options. Caregivers of these patients also bear an emotional and physical burden similar to that of caregivers for patients with cancer. Despite the proven benefits of nonhospice PC for other serious illnesses and cancer, there are no evidence-based structures and processes to support its integration within the routine care of patients with ESLD and their caregivers. In this article, we review the current state of PC for ESLD and propose key structures and processes to integrate nonhospice PC within routine hepatology practice. Results found that PC is highly underutilized within ESLD care, and limited prospective studies are available to demonstrate methods to integrate PC within routine hepatology practices. Hepatology providers report lack of training to deliver PC along with no clear prognostic criteria on when to initiate PC. A well-informed model with key structures and processes for nonhospice PC integration would allow hepatology providers to improve clinical outcomes and QOL for patients with ESLD and reduce health care costs. Educating hepatology providers about PC principles and developing clear prognostic criteria for when and how to integrate PC on the basis of individual patient needs are the initial steps to inform the integration. The fields of nonhospice PC and hepatology have ample opportunities to partner clinically and academically.
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