Dr. Hsien Seow and Palliative Care Innovation

  • December 13, 2016
  • News

Hamilton Health Sciences Research Administration is excited to feature researchers and projects that are tackling real-life, close-to-home Hamilton issues and having a positive effect on our patients, families and our community.

The ethos of palliative care can be summed up by Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the hospice movement: “You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

 The palliative approach aims to improve quality of life and relief from suffering through the holistic care of both the dying person and their family, encompassing the psychological, social and spiritual, as well as the physical. But, in spite of the benefits for patients and loved ones, it is estimated that only 15 to 30% of Canadians receive palliative care.

Here in Hamilton, we’re fortunate to have Dr. Hsien Seow, whose mandate is to change and improve not only the way we die, but enhance how we spend our final days, weeks, months and even years. With a focus on improving palliative care, Dr. Seow’s work has already been instrumental in helping health care providers in Hamilton identify and implement the best models for family doctors, physician specialists, care coordinators, and community health care workers to work in an integrated way—so they can provide the best symptom management and are working as one integrated team.

While much has been achieved, there is still more to be done. “We are at a point where we have lots of evidence that palliative care in the home is beneficial,” Dr Seow explains. “The future of my research is working on how to build the palliative care capacity in community providers and implement the optimal model of care for their local context. This ensures we have a system where all patients and families can receive palliative care in their homes. It’s not enough to know that palliative care in the home is a good thing. We need to know how to deliver on that promise to patients and families, which means the hard work of building local capacity for multidisciplinary palliative care teams.”

By improving access to palliative care, Dr. Seow’s work is benefiting patients and families in our community, and helping create a more integrated and sustainable health care system.

Hsien Seow is an Associate Professor in the Department of Oncology, McMaster University. He is the Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and Health System Innovation. He earned a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a B.Sc. from Yale University. His research interests are innovation within the palliative care health system and improving quality of care for patients. He has worked with the Ministry of Health, Health Quality Ontario, the LHINs (local health integration networks), and various regional and provincial bodies to improve hospice palliative care. He has created guides and tools, which can be found on his website: