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01.10.2019 | original article Open Access

Retrospective qualitative pilot study incorporating patients’ personal life aspects on admission to palliative care

What should we know about patients to give them the best possible care?

Wiener klinische Wochenschrift
MD Anna Kitta, MD Feroniki Adamidis, MD, Ph.D. Matthias Unseld, MD Herbert H. Watzke, MD, Ph.D., MSc Eva Katharina Masel
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This pilot study examined which of a patient’s personal aspects should be taken into account in a hospital setting on admission to the palliative care unit (PCU) by asking patients the question “what should I know about you as a person to help me take the best care of you that I can?”


This retrospective study used qualitative methodology to thematically analyze answers from 14 patients admitted to the PCU of the Medical University of Vienna during July and August 2018. The question “what should I know about you as a person to help me take the best care of you that I can?” was asked on the day of admission, notes were taken during the interview and the patient’s answers were written out immediately afterwards. Data were analyzed using NVivo 12.


Results revealed four topics: characterization of one’s personality, important activities, social bonding, and present and future concerns regarding the patient’s illness. Data showed that this question enabled patients to describe themselves and what was important to them. This might result in an improved sense of self-esteem in patients and represents an opportunity for professionals to treat patients in a more individualized manner; however, patient reactions also revealed a reluctance to address certain personal issues within a medical context.


The study results provide insights into the benefits of paying more attention to personal life aspects of severely ill patients on admission to a PCU. Addressing individual aspects of patients’ lives might improve the healthcare professional-patient relationship.
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