Skip to main content

Improved Care for Patients in Intensive Care Units

Professor Hanne Irene Jensen, alongside Professor Karina Dahl Steffensen, is partner in a significant new EU project. The focus of this project is the improvement of palliative care and treatment for patients in hospital intensive care units.

By Nana Olejank Hansen, , 1/19/2024

Around 10% of all mortalities in Europe are associated with hospitalizations in intensive care units, either during the hospital stay or immediately following it. Admissions to intensive care units are generally demanding experiences, impacting both the patient and their family members.

In a significant new EU project, 'EPIC – Enhancing Palliative care in ICU,' researchers will concentrate on identifying and addressing the palliative needs of non-cancer patients. They aim to place a greater emphasis on understanding the patient's overall situation, moving beyond a focus solely on life-prolonging treatment.

Palliation and End-of-life care

The World Health Organization's definition of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for patients and families grappling with the challenges linked to life-threatening illnesses. Quality of life is enhanced by preventing and alleviating suffering through early diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of physical, psychological, psychosocial, and spiritual issues.

End-of-life care
The term used to describe the treatment and care in the final stages of a patient's or citizen's life.

Palliative treatment and end-of-life care are not exclusive to cancer patients but also extend to individuals with other illnesses in the concluding stages of their lives.

Source: Danish Health Authority - Recommendations for palliative care.

Professors Hanne Irene Jensen and Karina Dahl Steffensen from the Department of Regional Health Research at the University of Southern Denmark and Lillebælt Hospital are partners in this project.

- With this project, our objective is to enhance the focus on identifying and meeting patients' palliative needs. This means we are not solely concentrating on the treatment itself. The anticipation is that an increased emphasis on these needs could result in earlier decisions to abstain from further life-prolonging treatment if it appears unlikely to save the patient. In this manner, the quality of the patients' final phase of life will also be enhanced, explains Hanne Irene Jensen.

By addressing the patient's comprehensive situation, encompassing palliative and existential needs, researchers strive to deliver optimal treatment, whether it involves life-prolonging or palliative care. The anticipated outcome is expected to manifest in the duration of patients' admission to the intensive care unit.

Telemedicine to make healthcare accessible to all

The project is funded by the EU with 6.3 million Euros and marks the inaugural pan-European study on palliative care in intensive care units. It is an intervention study, signifying that researchers are examining how a specific action impacts patients.

In this instance, the intervention includes patients enrolled in the study receiving one or more consultations with a palliative specialist through telemedicine. The effectiveness is evaluated by examining medical records and collecting feedback from relatives, surviving patients, palliative specialists, and intensive care unit staff. Telemedicine will facilitate these consultations, allowing even hospitals without palliative specialists to offer specialized palliative treatment to patients.

In the Danish segment of the study, Professor Hanne Irene Jensen is tasked with identifying factors that hinder or promote palliative efforts and end-of-life care. Her colleague from the Department of Regional Health Research, Professor Karina Dahl Steffensen, who is head of the Center for Shared Decision Making, is responsible for the domain of 'Shared Decision Making.

The project's vision is for the results and model to be eventually implemented in all European countries.

About the EPIC Project – Enhancing Palliative care in ICU

The project receives financial support from the European Union, amounting to 6.3 million Euros.

Twenty-three intensive care units from Germany, Greece, the Czech Republic, Israel, and Italy are participating in the intervention phase of the project, with a total of 2001 patients scheduled for inclusion.

The project initiates with a baseline period involving measurements, such as the length of hospital stay, and training of staff in palliation through e-learning and workshops.

The intervention phase follows, during which patients enrolled in the study undergo one or more consultations with a palliative specialist through telemedicine. This specialist adheres to a checklist developed in the project to identify patients' palliative needs and ensure consistency in the provision of services.

Ultimately, the impact is assessed through the examination of medical records and surveys conducted among relatives, surviving patients, and healthcare professionals. The primary metric for evaluation is the duration of stay in intensive care.

Additionally, researchers from Belgium, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Denmark are also involved in other aspects of the project.

Meet the researcher

Hanne Irene Jensen, Professor of End-of-life Care at the Department of Regional Health Research, University of Southern Denmark, and the Anaesthesiology Units at Lillebælt Hospital.


Meet the researcher

Karina Dahl Steffensen, Professor of Shared Decision Making at the Department of Regional Health Research, University of Southern Denmark, and the Center for Shared Decision Making, Lillebælt Hospital.



Telemedicine refers to digitally supported healthcare services where patients and healthcare professionals can connect digitally when physical presence is neither necessary nor possible. This may include video calls.

Editing was completed: 19.01.2024