COVID-19 and Palliative Care: The rapidly evolving research agenda | Dr Beth Russell

Palliative care is an essential component of health care responses to COVID-19. Dr Beth Russell explores this role and explains how palliative care researchers are collaborating internationally to better understand these aspects of COVID-19 care.

Dr Beth Russell
Palliative Care Physician
Palliative Care Nexus, UMCCR
St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne

Much of the early literature regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) focusses on the epidemiology of the pandemic and the treatment of the disease, whilst little attention has been paid to the symptom burden experienced by patients and the effectiveness of supportive care measures.

Furthermore, palliative care has a key role in care for many people with COVID-19 through symptom relief, decision making, communication, support of families, yet many aspects of the delivery of palliative care is challenged by the imperatives of social distancing, personal protective equipment and keeping staff and families safe.

A large amount of research activity is underway or under development in this area. One important program which seeks to quickly address some of our gaps in knowledge, the international Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative (PaCCSC) has launched a study to better understand the symptom prevalence and intensity in people with severe COVID-19 disease.

The study uses the well-established ‘RAPID’ pharmacovigilance methodology. RAPID is a collaborative, international quality improvement program that includes multi-site, consecutive-cohort, post-marketing series that examine interventions to collate data on widespread and longer-term use of medications and non-pharmacological interventions. The program is called RAPID because it involves rapid data collection, collation and analysis, rapid reporting and rapid influence on clinical practice.

In this seminar, Professor Jennifer Philip will provide an overview of the issues and opportunities facing palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dr Beth Russell will outline the RAPID methodology, the body of work to date, and will explain how the RAPID methodology has been employed in COVID-19 research.


Dr Beth Russell is a palliative care physician with a passion for good research and a mission to improve access to quality palliative care for all who have need. She works in inpatient palliative care at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne and conducts research with Palliative Nexus at the University of Melbourne. Beth is currently undertaking a PhD under the supervision of Prof Philip on the topic of triage in palliative care.