Background: While 1 in 10 patients hospitalized with heart failure (HF) die within 30 days, end-of-life care for this high-risk population is not well described.
Methods: We analyzed patients discharged alive from the Get With The Guidelines-HF registry between 2005-2014, linked to Medicare claims. We compared patients discharged to hospice to non-hospice “advanced HF” patients (ejection fraction ≤25% and either on inotropes, sodium ≤130, blood urea nitrogen ≥45 mg/dL, systolic blood pressure ≤90 mmHg or comfort measures) and to other GWTG-HF patients.
Results: Of 121,990 US patients, hospice patients (n=4588, 2164 facility-based, 2424 home hospice) compared with advanced HF (n=4357) and others (113,045) were older (median age 86 years vs 78 years vs 81 years), more likely white race (88% vs 80% vs 82%), have intravenous loop diuretics used (74% vs 57% vs 63%), have an advanced care plan/surrogate decision maker discussed or documented (76% vs 62% vs 66%), had more dyspnea at rest (55% vs 46% vs 48%) and worse/unchanged symptoms at discharge (35% vs 2% vs 1%) (all p<0.01). Discharge to hospice increased from 2% (n=109) in 2005 to 5% (n=968) in 2014. Median survival in hospice was 11 days (25th, 75th percentile: 3, 65 days) compared with advanced HF (318 days) and others (754 days); 34% of patients discharged to a hospice facility and 12% to home hospice died in <3 days. (Figure) Median survival in hospice did not change significantly from 2005 to 2014. Hospital readmission at 30 days was 4% among hospice, 27% for advanced HF, and 22% for others. Median per-hospital hospice discharge rate over the study perior was 3% (1%, 6%). Hospice discharges had lower adjusted hazards of all-cause readmission (hospice compared with others: advanced HF odd ratio (OR) 0.15 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.13-0.18), others OR 0.15 (95% CI 0.13-0.18). Hospice patients also had lower 6-month and 1-year readmission rate. Non-white race (OR 1.59 [95% CI 1.18-2.17]) and younger age (OR per 5 years 1.18 [95% CI 1.10-1.27)] were the strongest predictors of readmission from hospice.
Conclusion: Hospice use in patients hospitalized with HF is limited but increasing. Few hospice patients are rehospitalized and almost a quarter die within 3 days of discharge. These findings may inform interventions to improve hospice care for HF patients.