The primary goal of palliative care teams is to provide intensive support to terminally ill patients in their final phase of life and to relieve them of their pain. The main focus is the patient themselves: their well-being, their wishes and their dignity. The work of these teams involves providing very personal care to their patients – an activity rather removed from technology and digitalisation. And yet this is the very reason why the PALLADiUM research project, in which the Department of Palliative Medicine at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen led by Prof. Dr. Christophe Ostgathe is playing a key role, is focusing on this aspect in its research. The research team from various fields is analysing existing interdisciplinary communication in in-patient palliative care and would like to develop a digital work system to provide support to multi-professional teams.
Palliative care is a holistic approach for caring for palliative patients characterised by a professional understanding that is based on personal relationships. The focus of the care provided is not on prevention or healing, but rather on minimising suffering in all its forms – be it physical, psychological, social or spiritual. Palliative care therefore involves a great deal of collaboration between several different professions. The fact that this type of care traditionally does not involve the use of a great deal of technology is not an obstacle for PALLADiUM. ‘On the contrary. The comparably low level of digitalisation in palliative care is an excellent opportunity,’ explains Sandra Grimmiger, research associate at the Department of Palliative Medicine at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. ‘It offers us the best basis for researching how information and communication technology can be designed at an early stage and which working conditions and skills are needed to ensure digital technologies are accepted and used with confidence.’ Above all, the research team hopes to discover which AI-supported approaches are suitable for improving the way structured and unstructured data are used in communication and collaboration processes in palliative care.
PALLADiUM combines three disciplines: Medicine provides specialist knowledge, sociology the understanding of social processes in the creation and transfer of knowledge in the interaction between medical staff, nurses and therapists, and information systems provides technical expertise paired with human-machine interaction and collaborative IT-based work. This interdisciplinary collaboration generates knowledge and artefacts relevant to care such as work system design and a function model of an AI-based assistance system both for the field of palliative care and for other areas of health care and nursing that follow a similar logic and face similar challenges such as individual patient focus, collaboration between several professions, and varying levels of information, knowledge and skills.
PALLADiUM started on 1 April 2021 and is being funded for three years (with an interim evaluation) by the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt). The acronym stands for the project title: ‘Palliative care as a digital field of work: Perspectives and possibilities for designing the digital transformation of communication and collaboration processes in multi-professional care in the last phase of life’. The project is being managed by three experts in their respective fields: Prof. Dr. Christoph Ostgathe, Director of the Department of Palliative Medicine at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, Prof. Dr. Werner Schneider, Professorship of Sociology with a focus on Social Studies at Augsburg University, and Prof. Dr. Henner Gimpel, Chair of Digital Management at the University of Hohenheim. The general validity and practical relevance of the research project’s results are guaranteed by the fact that it involves a large number of associated partners and international experts.