BACKGROUND: Patients with terminal conditions are often admitted to the emergency department (ED) for acute medical services, but studies have suggested that multiple ED admissions may negatively impact end-of-life (EOL) care. Research have shown that incorporating palliative care (PC) is integral to optimal EOL care, but it is an aspect of medical practice that is often neglected. The current study sought to provide an overview of health outcomes and hospital costs of patients with cancer admitted to The Ottawa Hospital and/or received acute medical services during their final 2 weeks of life. Cost comparisons and estimates were made between hospital and hospice expenditures.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective chart review of palliative patients who died at The Ottawa Hospital in 2012. A total of 130 patients who visited the ED within 2 weeks of death were included in the analyses.
RESULTS: In this cohort of patients, 71% of admitted patients did not have advanced care directives and 85% experienced a metastasis, but only 18% had a PC medical doctor. Patients were hospitalized, on average, for 7 days and hospitalization costs exceeded the estimated hospice cost by approximately 2.5 times (Can$1 041 170.00 at Can$8009.00/patient vs Can$401 570.00 at Can$3089.00/patient, respectively).
CONCLUSION: Our study highlighted the importance of PC integration in high-risk patients, such as those in oncology. Patients in our sample had minimal PC involvement, low advanced care directives, and accrued high costs. Based on our analyses, we concluded that these patients would have likely benefited more from hospice care rather than hospitalization.