Palliative homecare is associated with reduced high- and low-acuity emergency department visits at the end of life: A population-based cohort study of cancer decedents

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Abstract

Background:

Prior work shows that palliative homecare services reduce the subsequent need for hospitalizations and emergency services; however, no study has investigated whether this association is present for emergency department visits of high acuity or whether it only applies to low-acuity emergency department visits.

Aim:

To examine the association between palliative versus standard homecare nursing and the rate of high-acuity and low-acuity emergency department visits among cancer decedents during their last 6 months of life.

Design:

This is a retrospective cohort study of end-of-life homecare patients in Ontario, Canada, who had confirmed cancer cause of death from 2004 to 2009. A multivariable Poisson regression analysis was implemented to examine the association between the receipt of palliative homecare nursing (vs standard homecare nursing) and the rate of high- and low-acuity emergency department visits, separately.

Results:

There were 54,743 decedents who received homecare nursing in the last 6 months of life. The receipt of palliative homecare nursing decreased the rate of low-acuity emergency department visits (relative rate = 0.53, 95% confidence interval = 0.50–0.56) and was significantly associated with a larger decrease in the rate of high-acuity emergency department visits (relative rate = 0.37, 95% confidence interval = 0.35–0.38).

Conclusion:

Receiving homecare nursing with palliative intent may decrease the need for dying cancer patients to visit the emergency department, for both high and low-acuity visits, compared to receiving general homecare nursing. Policy implications include building support for additional training in palliative care to generalist homecare nurses and increasing access to palliative homecare nursing.

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