The current novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic will likely strain Canada’s health care system beyond capacity, and many people are expected to die as a result. In this article, we review the challenges involved in providing palliative care in a pandemic.
PURPOSE: This study evaluates whether an intervention to identify Canadian patients eligible for a palliative approach changes the use of health care resources and costs within the final month of life.
METHODS: Between 2014 and 2017, physicians identified 1,187 patients in family practice units and cancer centers who were likely to die within 1 year based on diagnosis, symptom assessment, and performance status. A multidisciplinary intervention that included activation of community resources and initiation of palliative planning was started. By using propensity-score matching, patients in the intervention group were matched 1:1 with nonintervention controls selected from provincial administrative data. We compared health care use and costs (using 2017 Canadian dollars) for 30 days before death between patients who died within the 1-year follow-up and matched controls.
RESULTS: Groups (n = 629 in each group) were well-balanced in sociodemographic characteristics, comorbidities, and previous health care use. In the last 30 days, there was no differences in proportions between the two groups of patients regarding emergency department visits, intensive care unit admissions, or inpatient hospitalizations. However, patients in the intervention group had greater use of palliative physician encounters, community home care visits, and/or physician home visits (92.8% v 88.4%; P = .007). In the 507 pairs with cancer, more patients in the intervention group underwent chemotherapy (44% v 33%; P < .001) and radiation (18.7% v 3.2%; P = .043) in the last 30 days. Mean cost per patient was similar for the intervention group (mean, $17,231; 95% CI, $16,027 to $18,436) and for the control group (mean, $16,951; 95% CI, $15,899 to $18,004).
CONCLUSION: Even with the limitations in our observational study design, identification of palliative patients did not significantly change overall costs but may shift resources toward palliative services.
BACKGROUND: Home-based palliative care is care of the patient in their home, while doctors and other healthcare providers (HCPs) make visits as required. Family involvement naturally cultivates a relationship between HCPs and the family. Once the patient dies and home-based palliative care ends, this relationship is abruptly terminated, which may be challenging to both the family and the HCPs. The objective of this study was to understand the thoughts and opinions of HCPs and families on their encountered loss of relationship at the end of home-based palliative care.
METHODS: Perceptions of 63 participants (32 HCPs and 31 family members) were explored using semi-structured interviews and the qualitative research methodologies of grounded theory. HCPs were interviewed at the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care (TLCPC), a home-based palliative care group of physicians, and 2 hospitals in Toronto, while family members were recruited from TLCPC's records of deceased patients.
RESULTS: Six overarching themes, relating to HCP-family relationship dynamics, the experience of loss of relationship, and potential solutions, were derived from the data: (I) home palliative care is intimate; (II) dissatisfaction is experienced with abrupt relationship ending; (III) families benefit from open communication, especially after patient death; (IV) HCPs recognize the insufficiency in bereavement resources; (V) benefits are recognized for a system to ease loss of relationship, and lastly; (VI) challenges with introducing such a system concern HCP.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, families and HCPs do not like the loss of relationship post-patient death, and recognize the potential benefits of an approach that would allow for communication going forward.
OBJECTIVE: With increasing evidence from controlled trials on benefits of early palliative care, there is a need for studies examining implementation in real-world settings. The INTEGRATE Project was a 3-year real-world project that promoted early identification and support of patients with cancer who may benefit from palliative care. This study assesses feasibility, stakeholder experiences, and early impact of the INTEGRATE Project
METHODS: The INTEGRATE Project was implemented in four cancer centres in Ontario, Canada, and consisted of interdisciplinary provider education and an integrated care model. Providers used the Surprise Question to identify patients for inclusion. A mixed methods evaluation of INTEGRATE was conducted using descriptive data, interviews with providers and managers, and provider surveys.
RESULTS: A total of 760 patients with cancer (lung, glioblastoma, head and neck, gastrointestinal) were included. Results suggest improvement in provider confidence to deliver palliative care and to initiate the Advanced Care Planning (ACP) conversation. The majority of patients (85%) had an ACP or goals of care (GOC) conversation initiated within a mean time to conversation of 5-46 days (SD 20-93) across centres. A primary care report was transmitted to family doctors 48-100% of the time within a mean time to transmission of 7-54 days (SD 9-27) across centres. Enablers and barriers influencing success of the model were also identified.
CONCLUSIONS: A standardized model for the early introduction of palliative care for patients with cancer can be integrated into the routine practice of oncology providers, with appropriate education, integration into existing clinical workflows, and administrative support.
As the Royal College of Physicians polls its members in the UK this February, Sandy Buchman, the Canadian Medical Association's president elect, explains how accepting terminally ill patients’ autonomy led him to provide medical assistance in dying.
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OBJECTIVE: To explore the extent to which family health clinics in Ontario and the eastern regions of the province of Quebec provide palliative care.
DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey.
SETTING: Ontario and the eastern regions of Quebec.
PARTICIPANTS: The clinic leads of a select group of family health clinics with patient enrolment models in Ontario and the eastern regions of Quebec.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The types of palliative care services that the clinics provide, as well as the enablers of and barriers to providing palliative care within the 2 provinces.
RESULTS: The overall response rate was 32%. Clinics in both provinces reported providing palliative care to ambulatory patients (83% of Ontario clinics and 74% of Quebec clinics). Only 29 of 102 (28%) Ontario clinics provided on-call services themselves, compared with 31 of 34 (91%) Quebec clinics, with the resulting effect being that more patients were directed to emergency departments in Ontario. Access to palliative care specialist teams for support was higher in Ontario than in Quebec (67% vs 41%, respectively). In Ontario, 56% of practices indicated that they had access to palliative care physicians who could take over the care of their patients with palliative care needs, but a lower number (44%) actually handed over care to these physicians.
CONCLUSION: A group of clinics are providing full palliative care services to their own patients with palliative care needs, including "on-call" services and home visits, and these serve as role models. In Ontario in particular, substantial gaps still exist with respect to clinics providing their own after-hours coverage and home visits; many rely on other services to provide that care. In Quebec, lack of access to palliative care specialist teams appears to be a key challenge in the areas included in this survey. This survey could help policy makers and funders of health care services ensure that appropriate conditions are put in place for optimal palliative care provision in these clinics, such as coordinating access to on-call coverage and support from palliative care specialist teams, as well as providing education to all physicians and adequate remuneration.
BACKGROUND: Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) was legalized in Canada in June 2016. There are no documented experiences of MAiD provision within a home palliative care program. The majority of palliative care physicians in Canada object to MAiD. As one of the largest home-based palliative care providers in Canada, the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care (TLCPC) developed processes to implement MAiD provision within a home palliative care team with diverse attitudes toward MAiD.
OBJECTIVE: To demonstrate the feasibility of providing MAiD within a home palliative care setting and describe the population that received MAiD in the first year of legalization.
DESIGN: A retrospective chart review identified patients who received or were assessed for MAiD and had a known outcome between June 17, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
SETTING/SUBJECTS: Patients receiving home-based palliative care.
MEASUREMENTS: Data extracted included age, gender, primary diagnosis, length of time receiving home-based palliative care, and final clinical outcome.
RESULTS: Of the 45 patients who were assessed for MAiD, 27 (60%) received MAiD and 18 (40%) did not. The mean age was 74 (range 20-95), 24 (53%) were male, and 33 (73%) had cancer as a primary diagnosis. These 27 patients represent 1.2% of our total patient population during this time period.
CONCLUSIONS: MAiD was accessed by 1.2% of the patients within a home palliative care center in the first year of legalization. Patient demographics were consistent with those documented elsewhere. The TLCPC process accommodates the diverse viewpoints of clinicians and emphasizes continuity of palliative care provision.