Cool tool: iPal brings PHC palliative care online

Internal medicine specialist Stephane Voyer with the new web-based tool called iPal.

Although he has great admiration for Providence Health Care’s Palliative Care team, internal medicine specialist Stephane Voyer isn’t relying on them as much these days to help him care for patients with end-stage disease. Before he makes the call to a palliative care expert, he heads online. On a new web-based tool called iPal (, Dr. Voyer can immediately access the information he needs to initiate a palliative care approach himself. “It’s very helpful to be able to get the ball rolling and address the patient’s symptoms right away while we’re arranging for a palliative care consultation,” he says.

When his work takes him to smaller BC hospitals without palliative care support services, Dr. Voyer appreciates iPal even more. On his smart phone, he can quickly access quality information to guide his care decisions and interactions with patients and their families.

The iPal mobile “app” was developed by the Palliative Care team with support from St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation. Designed specifically for use on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, iPal brings essential palliative care information to health professionals at point of care. Sections on assessing and managing symptoms feature dropdown menus with information and treatment recommendations (including dosages) for the most common symptoms. Sections on planning and communicating provide practical guidance for supporting patients and their families, and “talk tips” throughout the tool suggest helpful ways to approach palliative care discussions.

The mobile app idea was first suggested by Pastoral Care’s Thomas Salley, a member of PHC’s multidisciplinary End-of-Life Council. “The council looks at ways to help build caregiver capacity in acute settings,” explains Dr. Romayne Gallagher, Physician Program Director of PHC’s Palliative Care Program. “We thought this was a great way to make palliative care information more readily available to people across our organization.”

Early response to iPal has been very positive. “We’ve heard from physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrators about the value of iPal,” reports Dr. Gallagher. In keeping with their capacity-building goals, the team has also started promoting the use of iPal beyond Providence. “There aren’t many other online tools out there,” she observes. “We’ve made sure that iPal reflects best practices and current evidence, so it can confidently be used by any health professional.”

Dr. Voyer agrees. “I think iPal is incredibly useful, especially for junior practitioners who may not have a lot of experience with difficult conversations about end-of-life care. The strength of the app is that it uses plain language and it’s so practical.”

Check out iPal

To access iPal, visit iPal is compatible with smartphone and tablet browsers, as well as newer versions of desktop browsers. If you have any feedback or suggestions for improving this resource, please contact Romayne Gallagher at