Predictors of Emergency Room Visits or Acute Hospital Admissions Prior to Death among Hospice Palliative Care Clients in the Community
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Background: The demand for hospice palliative care (HPC) services is expected to grow due to the increasing number of seniors living into advanced old age, the changing nature of death, and the changing family structure. HPC is a philosophy of care that aims to relieve suffering and improve the quality of life for clients with life-threatening illnesses or end of life issues. The goals of HPC are not only to ameliorate clients’ symptoms but also to reduce unneeded or unwanted medical interventions such as emergency room visits or hospitalizations (ERVH). Hospitals are considered a setting ill-prepared for end of life issues. Therefore, use of such acute care services has to be considered an indicator of poor quality end of life care. It is important to understand the factors that contribute to ERVH in order to determine how to minimize the number of avoidable hospital visits. Objectives: The objectives of this study were to report the proportion of palliative home care clients with ERVH, describe the characteristics of clients with ERVH, and identify the predisposing, enabling, and need-for-care variables associated with ERVH. Methods: Analysis of secondary data was performed on a palliative home care dataset from the Hamilton Community Care Access Centre (CCAC). All palliative home care clients receiving services from the Hamilton branch were assessed using the interRAI Palliative Care (interRAI PC), which is a comprehensive, standardized instrument. One assessment for each client assessed between April 2008 and July 2010 was used, for a final sample size of 764. Results: Half of the palliative home care clients had one or more ERVH. Visits to the emergency department by time of the day and day of the week were relatively stable. Logistic regression and Cox regression analyses showed that wish to die at home and advance care directives are protective against ERVH. Unstable health, identified by a Changes in Health End stage disease and Signs and Symptoms scale (CHESS) score of 3 or higher, was associated with reduced odds of ERVH, while infections such as prior pneumonia and prior urinary tract infections increased odds of ERVH. Conclusions: Predisposing characteristics (i.e., wish to die at home and advance care directives) are nearly as important as need variables (i.e., CHESS and prior urinary tract infection) in determining ERVH among palliative home care clients, which challenges the assumption that need variables are the most important determinants of ERVH. There was a lack of significant association between many assessed needs and ERVH, perhaps due to the fluctuating health status among such clients and the stability of measurements. Ongoing assessment of palliative home care clients is essential in reducing ERVH, as reassessments at specified intervals will allow care and service plans to be adjusted with clients’ changing health needs and end of life preferences.